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Rules of the Game: Triathlon

Something new for the Olympics is the mixed team relay in which two men and two women per team compete.

While most people think of the grueling Ironman when they hear the word triathlon, the Olympics version is shorter and completed quicker. In a new twist for 2020, men and women will compete in a team relay event as well as the individual gendered events.

The race consists of a 1,500-meter swim (0.93 miles), a 40-kilometer bike ride (24.9 miles) and a 10-kilometer run (6.2 miles). Men typically finish the course in about 1 hour 45 minutes and women finish in roughly 2 hours.

In the mixed relay, two men and two women per team will compete on a shorter course than the individual course in this order -- female, male, female, male. Each athlete will traverse a 300-meter swim, 6.8-kilometer bike ride and 2-kilometer run before tagging in the next competitor. It will take about 90 minutes to complete. 

Just as important as their ability to swim, bike and run, is the ability to quickly "transition" from one to another. Think if it like a NASCAR race -- no matter how well the driver does, the race can be lost with one bad pit stop.

Racers wear a tri suit, which is designed to allow them to do all three parts of the triathlon without needing to change. One trick racers will use is to have their bicycle shoes already attached to the pedals. So after the swim, they just need to slip their feet in. But there are also rules in the transition zone, such as when athletes can mount and dismount their bikes.

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