First Olympic Appearance: 2000
by Gerry Brown and Mark Zurlo
Triathlon, the sport of ironmen and ironwomen, made its Olympic debut at the 2000 Sydney Games. While not as demanding as Hawaii's annual Ironman Triathlon, the Olympic edition is still a great exhibition of strength, speed, and stamina.
The competitors will race in a 1.5-kilometer swim, 40km bike ride, and 10km run. The men's and women's triathlon competition at the Beijing games will be held at the Ming Tomb Reservoir in northern Beijing on August 18 and 19. Competitors will begin the competition by diving into the reservoir, while the cycling and running portions of the event will take place on the reservoir dam and the roads surrounding the area. The race is held with a continuously running clock and therefore the changeovers or transitions between the swimming and biking and between the biking and running will be crucial to a triathlete's success. The first person to complete the full course is the winner.
The swimming event starts the race. Competitors begin in a large mass, diving off a pontoon into the water. They swim a triangular course marked with buoys and ropes and can use any swimming stroke they prefer. Once they get out of the water, the racers don their helmets, grab their bikes, and start pedaling. They must ride the bike the entire way unless they get a flat tire. In that case, they can run with the bike to one of six tire-changing stations. In most triathlons the competitors must change the tire themselves but at Athens, specially trained teams will perform the task for them.
Once off the bikes, the final stretch begins. The triathletes finish with the 10km run and must complete the course on their feet, meaning no crawling across the finish line. The biking and running portions of the race will be held on the same course.
Canadian Simon Whitfield and Swiss Bridgitte McMahon won the gold in the 2000 Sydney games.