What is the Olympic Triathlon?

Laura Bennett - American Triathlete
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The Olympic triathlon consists of a 1.5 kilometer swim, followed by a 40km bike ride, and then a 10km run. After a mass start, the race remains continuous, with no stops in between the three legs. Therefore, fast transitions between legs are critical to a good race performance.



  • Swimming Cap: Triathletes wear a lightweight and tight cap which holds the hair in place and reduces resistance when swimming.
  • Swimsuit: Competitors wear swimsuits made of Lycra, nylon or similar approved material to reduce the drag in the water.
  • Wetsuit: If the water temperature in the swim leg is 20 degrees Celsius or below, competitors can wear wetsuits. The wetsuits help swimmers maintain their body temperature in the cold water and also make them more buoyant.
  • Goggles: Goggles are worn during the swim to prevent water and debris from getting into a swimmer's eyes.



  • Bicycle: Athletes ride standard road-racing bike with clip-on bars that extend the body towards the front wheel of the bike, in order to make them more aerodynamic. Bike wheels have traditional spokes since solid disc wheels are not allowed in Olympic competition.
  • Helmets: Triathlon competitors are required to wear helmets during the cycling leg.
  • Pedals/shoes: Triathletes use clipless pedals. A cleat mounted to the bottom of the rider's shoe click into the pedal, which holds the foot in the proper position.



    • Shoes: Triathletes often use elasticized laces on their running shoes to speed up the transition from bike to run. The laces allow the athlete to slip on the running shoe as quickly as possible without having to tie the laces.  Get tips on how to find the right running shoes.

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