London 2012: Triathlon
Tell me about triathlon:
A combination of running, swimming and cycling, triathlon is a grueling but popular Olympic event. Triathlon made its Olympic debut in 2000 and has been won by six different countries each year it has been held. This summer, 110 athletes (55 men and 55 women) will compete for just one gold medal per gender. Their route will be scenic, as the 2012 Olympic Triathlon will be held at Hyde Park, the largest of London’s Royal Parks. Athletes will begin the event with a 1,500-meter swim followed by a 43-kilometer bike ride and conclude with a 10-kilometer run.
What’s up with the scoring?
The scoring in triathlon is simple; it’s a race to the finish. Competitors must complete all legs of the race cleanly and do not take breaks in between the swim, bike ride and run. The competition is cutthroat since there are no heats. Both men’s and women’s triathlon is conducted in a single race.
How do you qualify?
Many people complete triathlons each year worldwide, but how do you compete in the Olympic triathlon? National teams earn an Olympic berth based on results from races on the International Triathlon Union circuit. The national team can then assign eligible competitors a spot on its team for the Olympics. Athletes become eligible by meeting racing criteria set by their individual national teams. The host nation for the Olympics automatically receives one men’s and one women’s berth.
International athletes to watch for:
Javier Gomez, the 2008 and 2010 triathlon world champion, will look to win gold for Spain, and he’s out to avenge his poor performance in the 2008 Olympics. Gomez was the favorite then for gold, but suffered a stitch in his side during the race and finished fourth. The British will watch hometown hero Alistair Brownlee attempt to win gold on home soil. The 24-year-old Leeds native holds two world titles and two European titles in triathlon over the last three years.
Americans to follow:
Team USA will send five athletes (two men and three women) to represent the country in triathlon. One of the brightest stars for the U.S. is Sarah Groff, who is originally from Cooperstown, N.Y. but now lives in Hanover, N.H. Groff finished 2011 ranked No. 1 in the country in triathlon and achieved the No. 3-spot in the ITU rankings.
Hunter Kemper, a 36-year-old from Colorado Springs, Colo., is one of just three athletes to qualify for all four Olympic triathlons. His best showing was a seventh-place finish in Beijing.
Talk like an Olympian – terms to know:
Bonking – a term among triathletes used for the feeling of losing their strength suddenly (the feeling when they hit a wall).
Penalty box – an area on the course set aside for athletes to wait out a time penalty for a rule infringement during the race.
Drafting – Riding in the slipstream of an opponent in order to conserve energy during the bike race.
Mount line – a line between the transition area and bike course where athletes must mount their bikes. There is a dismount area as well at the end of the bike course.