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The triathlon and triathlon vocabulary Posted by on Aug 3, 2012 in English Vocabulary, News

Because the triathlon is a multi-sport event involving competition in swimming, cycling, and running, there is a lot of great English vocabulary we can discuss around this one Olympic event.  First of all let’s discuss what this sport involves.  This is an endurance sport in which athletes compete in continuous (back-to-back) events of swimming, cycling, and running.  The Olympic distances for these events are: 1.5 kilometers (0.93  mi) of swimming, 40 kilometers (25  mi) of bike riding, and 10 kilometers (6.2  mi) of running. In competitions other than the Olympics the length of these different events can vary.  Triathletes (athletes who compete in a triathlon) compete for the fastest overall course completion time.  The first to win all the events and cross the finish line gets the gold!

Here is some vocabulary related to the three sports that make up this one mega-sport that might be helpful for you if you want to watch the Olympic Woman’s Triathlon finals tomorrow (August 4th) or the Men’s Triathlon finals on August 7th.


a kick – a sudden surge of energy, often at the end of a race

splits – a time given at a certain point in a race to know one’s timing

stride – the distance a person travels in a single long step


aerodynamics – the properties of moving air along a solid body with the hope of maximizing efficiency of motion

bicycle – a vehicle made up of two wheels held in a frame, moved forward by pedals, and steered with handlebars

gear(s) – the round toothed part of a bicycle that transmits motion and is used to change speed

handlebars – the steering bar of a bicycle that includes handgrips at each end

pedal(s) – a foot-operated lever used to turn the gears and propel the bike forward


backstroke – a swimming stroke performed lying on the back with the arms lifting alternately out of the water in a backward circular motion

breaststroke – a style of swimming performed in one’s front in which the arms are pushed forward and then swept back in a circular movement, while the legs are tucked in toward the body and then kicked out in a similar movement as the arms

butterfly – a swimming stroke in which the arms are thrown forward together out of the water while the feet remain in the waters and are kick up and down together

crawl/freestyle –  a swimming stroke carried out lying flat on the water with face submerged while taking alternate overhand arm strokes and moving the legs up and down alternately kicking from the knee

drafting – following closely behind a competitor to swim in their stream and make swimming easier

swimming stroke – a way of moving the arms and legs to push against  water and propel the swimmer forward

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About the Author: Gabriele

Hi there! I am one of Transparent Language's ESL bloggers. I am a 32-year-old native English speaker who was born and raised in the United States. I am living in Washington, DC now, but I have lived all over the US and also spent many years living and working abroad. I started teaching English as a second language in 2005 after completing a Master's in Applied Linguists and a Certificate in English Language Teaching to Adults' (CELTA). Since that time I have taught ESL in the United States at the community college and university level. I have also gone on to pursue my doctorate in psychology and now I also teach courses in psychology. I like to stay connected to ESL learners around the world through Transparent Languages ESL Blog. Please ask questions and leave comments on the blog and I will be sure to answer them.