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Olympic Games Tokyo 2020 Primer: What you Need to Know About Triathlon

By USA Triathlon | Aug. 14, 2019, 5 p.m. (ET)

tokyo 2020

The Olympic Games Tokyo 2020 are less than a year away! 

Here's a primer for what you need to know about the triathlon competitions in Tokyo 2020.

Competition dates

Don’t want to miss a minute of the triathlon action at the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games? Keep in mind that Tokyo is 13 hours ahead of the Eastern time zone in the United States. 

The men’s race will take place on Monday, July 27 at 7:30 a.m. in Tokyo (In the U.S. — Sunday, July 26 at 6:30 p.m. ET), and the women’s event will take place on Tuesday, July 28 at 7:30 a.m. (In the U.S. — Monday, July 27 at 6:30 p.m. ET). 

Both the men and the women will race the standard Olympic-distance format that consists of a 1.5-kilometer swim, a 40-kilometer bike ride and a 10-kilometer run. 

The highly anticipated Mixed Relay format will go down on Saturday, Aug. 1 at 8:30 a.m. (In the U.S. — Friday, July 30 at 7:30 p.m. ET) and will be one of several Olympic debuts on what’s being dubbed “Super Saturday” with over 20 medal events contested. 

Debut of the Mixed Relay

The ITU Triathlon Mixed Relay format has quickly become a fan favorite on the triathlon scene, and for good reason, too. This unique race format has led to some of the most dramatic finishes dating back to the first ITU Triathlon Mixed Relay World Championships in Des Moines, Iowa, in 2009. 

Mixed Relay teams consist of four athletes, ordered female-male-female-male, who each complete a super-sprint triathlon (300m swim, 8k bike and 2k run) before tagging their teammate. The short distances makes for fast racing with plenty of action. 

After being announced back in June 2017, both the triathlon and Olympic communities have been buzzing about the new event — not just for the opportunity to race, but as a catalyst to provide gender balance in the sport by addressing the IOC’s Olympic Agenda 2020 recommendations.

Though the U.S. and other countries have kept team strategies guarded during the qualifying period, they’ll be more limited for Tokyo as the selection pool is limited to the athletes who compete in the individual event.

mixed relay

Qualifying 101

Fifty-five men and 55 women will compete in the Tokyo 2020 Olympic triathlon events. The Olympic qualification term started May 11, 2018 and runs through May 11, 2020. During that time, athletes can use their best 12 results (from two different periods) for their Olympic qualification. A maximum of seven results can count during the first period (May 11, 2018 through May 10, 2019) and a maximum of seven results from the second period (May 11, 2019 through March 31, 2020). Scores can be achieved with six results from the first period and six results from the second period, or five results from the first period and seven results from the second period (or vice versa). 

Qualification events include the ITU World Triathlon Grand Final and 2019 ITU Olympic Test Event, the ITU World Triathlon Series events, ITU World Cups and the ITU Continental Championships. Points and qualification slots get a little tricky (especially when it comes to the Mixed Relay), but 51 slots for each gender are up for grabs as qualification spots, with two of the remaining four places designated for Japan and two used as invitation places for nations with a developing triathlon scene. 

About the Venues

Tokyo last hosted the Summer Olympics in 1964, and will feature many of the same venues as it prepares to host for the second time. The Olympic Stadium is being rebuilt and will once again serve as the venue for not only several athletic events, but the opening and closing ceremonies as well. Gender equality has also been highly emphasized in the Tokyo 2020 Event Program, with strategies being implemented to become the most gender-balanced Olympic Games in history (currently at 48.8% women).