Triathlon guide - London 2012 Olympic Games

Your complete guide to triathlon ahead of the London 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games

Photograph: Triathalon via Shutterstock

Converted: Athletes with more stamina than Sting compete in the pinnacle of sports multi-tasking.

Confused: Wow, three sports in one day. Middle-aged women do more than that at the gym.

RECOMMENDED: See our full list of London 2012 Olympic sport guides

Triathlon - The essential guide

Street cred: One of the fastest-growing sports in the world, thanks mainly to the burgeoning breed of blueberry-chomping professionals embarking on a sponsored slog in the hope it will make them seem more compassionate/interesting/rugged/sexy.

Who’s good? Since it became an Olympic event in 2000, Australia and New Zealand have won most triathlon medals.

The basics: An individual, three-event race; triathletes swim 1500m, cycle 40km and then run 1500m to the finish. The two transitions between events are equally important as athletes can lose time changing their gear.

Athlete to watch: Canadian Paula Findlay’s stunning recent displays make her the greatest triple threat at London 2012.

Not to be confused with: An ironman triathlon, which is significantly more grueling and ends with a full marathon rather than a piddly 1500m.

Almost useless fact: Triathlon's trendiness extends to the celebrity world, with Jennifer Lopez, Anna Kournikova and Pippa Middleton all recently doing one.

As seen in: Precious little fiction, so go for a triple-header to cover each event: dubious teen thriller ‘Swimfan’, followed by the delightful Tour de France animation ‘Triplets of Belleville’ and last, but not least, ‘Chariots of Fire’.

Do say: ‘The two guys at the back of the field appear to be bonking [slang for a sudden loss of energy in triathlons].'

Don't say: ‘The two guys at the back of the field appear to be having sex.'