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Wednesday, 5 June, 2002, 17:07 GMT 18:07 UK

Three for the price of one

Along with the likes of mountain biking, table tennis and women's weightlifting, the triathlon is among the Commonwealth Games newcomers in 2002.

The sport made a successful Olympic debut in the glorious setting of Sydney Harbour and many of those Olympians will be present at Salford Quays on the final day of the Games - 4 August.

Arguably one of the toughest of events, competitors must tackle a 1.5km swim in the cool waters of Manchester Ship Canal, a 40km bike ride followed by a 10km run, in their quest for gold.

All the entrants start en masse on the quayside diving off a pontoon, with the change-overs from swim to bike and bike to run all important in a usually tight contest.

In the men's event, the gold medallist will be expected to cross the finishing line in the one-hour-and-50-minute mark while the women target an average winning time of just over two hours.

"When I finally found this sport I thought it was brilliant and I adapted to it pretty easily"
Gold medal hopeful Simon Lessing

During the opening leg, the swimming, any stroke is allowed although front crawl is generally used across the board.

At the end of the swim, they collect their bikes and can only get off them if they suffer a puncture.

Should that happen, they have to run with the bike to the nearest tyre station.

The only rule in the running is that competitors must complete the course on foot. Remarkably, tired athletes who collapse crawling over the line can be disqualified.

Disqualification can also occur should an athlete impede another during the swim.

Yellow cards can be handed out during the cycling stage and two yellows means an immediate ban from the rest of the race.

The sport itself originated in California in 1974 and its origins are appropriately attributed to David Pain.

England will boast an impressive line-up, among them Simon Lessing, Andrew Johns and Stuart Hayes.

Lessing, one of the veterans of the circuit, boasts five World Championship titles and three European crowns.

He remains clear on the appeal of the sport.

He said: "When I finally found this sport I thought it was brilliant and I adapted to it pretty easily as I was already doing two of the sports."

Australia will also pose a major threat in the men's event courtesy of Miles Stewart, Peter Robertson and Chris McCormack

Canada, in Olympic champion Simon Whitfield, and the South African and New Zealand teams should also be strong.

The main protagonists in the women's will be the Australian trio of Loretta Harrop, Nicole Hackett and Michellie Jones while New Zealand's Heather Evans and England's Jodie Swallow are among those gunning for gold.

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