What is the Triathlon Mixed Team Relay?

This new triathlon event will make its debut in the Olympics—but how does the mixed team relay work, when is it on, and who's racing?

Photo: Ben Lumley/World Triathlon

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Tomorrow, triathlon will debut a new event at the Olympics: mixed team relay. With 17 teams competing in the first-ever Olympic team relay, you won’t want to miss seeing which country comes out on top. Here’s how to watch. Now what do you need to know, what exactly is triathlon mixed relay or team relay, and how does it work?

What is mixed team relay?

First and foremost: team mixed relay is not a relay like you’ve done at your local triathlon, where one person does each leg of the race. Instead, in mixed team relay every athlete completes an entire mini swim-bike-run before tagging off to the next athlete. Each team is made up of two men and two women, with the order going: female/male/female/male. At the Olympics each athlete will complete a super sprint triathlon of a 300m swim, 6.8K bike, and 2K run—which takes around 20 minutes—before tagging the next athlete.

Mixed team relay or triathlon team relay was first introduced in 2009 and was announced as a new event in the Olympics in 2017 (along with a number of other Olympic mixed team events, like the archery and judo mixed team competition, the mixed 4x400m relay in track, and the mixed 4x100m medley relay in swimming).

RELATED: Recalled: Mixed Relay Dazzles at the 2009 Hy-Vee Triathlon

How does team relay affect Olympic qualification?

Every athlete who competes in the mixed team relay at the Olympics must also have been eligible for the individual triathlon event (though countries can sub in an alternate after the individual events if someone was injured or sick). Because of this, many countries heavily considered the relay as they made team selections—a 20-minute event can lend itself to a very different athlete than a two-hour event.

While every country that has two men and two women qualified for the individual triathlon race can field a relay team at the Olympics, there have also been some spots reserved for countries that qualify specifically as relay teams. For instance, at the Mixed Relay Olympic Qualification event in Lisbon, Portugal the Belgian, Swiss, and Italian teams secured their Olympic relay spots. There are now 17 countries expected to field relay teams in Tokyo.

When is the Olympic mixed team relay and how do I watch?

The mixed team relay will be held on July 31 at 7:30 a.m. local time in Tokyo. In the U.S., that’s 6:30 p.m. ET on Friday, July 30. In the U.S., the sole broadcaster is NBC. The team relay will be aired on the USA network and streamed on the NBC Sports app or on Peacock.

Who is racing for the U.S. team?

USA Triathlon announced this week that their team would provisionally be newly minted Olympic bronze medalist Katie Zaferes, Summer Rappaport, Morgan Pearson, and Tokyo Olympic fifth-place finisher Kevin McDowell—though lineups can change up to two hours before the gun.

Who else should we watch?

The French team are the defending Mixed Relay World Champions, but the U.S., British, and Australian squads are also considered heavy contenders.

RELATED: Who Could Win the Inaugural Mixed Triathlon Relay?

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