Susan Williams’ Guide to Watching the Triathlon

Susan Williams’ Guide to Watching the Triathlon

(Frank Wechsel ITU)
Introducing the Expert

Name: Susan Williams
Location: Littleton, Colorado
Games and Medals: Athens 2004 (Bronze)
Key Quote: “I really enjoy swimming and biking, and running is sometimes fun! So, to put them all together is a really fun and challenging sport. I love that there are three separate sports. There is much more variety in training.”


Bike shoes: Triathletes wear special shoes while on the bike leg that clip directly into the bike pedals. The athlete will get on the bike barefoot, and then put the bike shoes on while riding. The shoes will remain attached to the pedals the entire race. At the end of the bike leg, the athlete will have his or her feet out of the shoes and get off of the bike barefoot to run into the transition area.

Race kit: This is the uniform that the athlete will wear to race; it will be unique to his or her country and also have personal as well as federation sponsors.


Sitting in: On the bike, some athletes just sit behind other cyclists, gaining the draft but not contributing any effort to the overall progress of the pack.

Flying mount: A flying mount is a way to get on the bike where you literally hop off the ground and jump onto your bike seat. It is a very quick way to start the bike and can give an advantage going into the bike leg.

Drafting: A tactic used for both the swim and bike leg, drafting is when one athlete follows directly behind another to gain advantage. The athlete in front will have to work a little harder than the athlete behind to go at the same speed.

Transition: This is where the athletes change sports, from swim to bike and then again from bike to run. It is critical to get through the transition area as fast as possible so as not to be left behind from the lead group.

Break away: A break away is when one or more athletes quickly increase their effort to move ahead of the rest of the field.


Gear bin: Anytime athletes leave the transition area, they cannot leave any equipment lying on the ground. (Each is given a bin to keep his or her gear in.) The consequence is a time penalty that will have to be served at some point on the next leg of the race.

Lapping: If on the bike course, any athlete is lapped by the lead group, the lapped athlete is disqualified from the race. [Editor’s Note: Harsh!]

Helmets: Any time during the race when an athlete is touching her bike, she is required to have her bike helmet on and the chinstrap buckled.

Game Changers

2008: Rule #1, about gear needing to be kept in a bin, was adopted. The rule did not apply in the first two Olympics in which triathlon was a part (2000 and 2004).

2012: Technology for wetsuits has increased dramatically. If this event is “wetsuit legal,” meaning temperatures are below 68 degrees Fahrenheit, look out for the TYR Freak of Nature wetsuit. It is incredible!!

2012: In general, triathletes are evolving into faster and faster runners. Don’t be surprised if one of the men hits a sub 30-minute 10k and a woman is in the 32-minute range.

Athletes to Watch
Hunter Kemper (USA):
Kemper, 36 and a father of three, has represented the U.S. in three Olympic Games. He placed 17th in Sydney in 2000, 9th in Athens in 2004 and 7th in Beijing in 2008. @hunterkemper

Laura Bennett (USA):
The 37-year-old triathlete placed fourth at the 2008 Olympics in Beijing. She has a great chance of securing a medal for the U.S. @LauraRBennett

Alistair and Jonathan Brownlee (Great Britain):
The Brownlee brothers (24 and 22, respectively) have had many great finishes over the past several years and now they are on their home turf. @AliBrownleetri and @jonny_brownlee

Photos by Paul Phillips/Competitive Image; Wikimedia Commons; Larry Rosa/ITU


Comment on this Story

comments powered by Disqus