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Resizing Triathlons for Fairness

Wainer, Howard; DeVeaux, Richard D.
Publication Year:
Report Number:
ETS Research Report
Document Type:
Page Count:
Subject/Key Words:
Athletics, Statistical Analysis, Test Fairness


(15pp.) Using total time to determine the winner of triathlon races necessitates making the variances of the times of each segment equal. This argument has been used to justify the relatively long cycling segments of the current Iron Man and Olympic Triathlons. The authors here maintain that this argument fails to take into account the variance that would obtain if a different group of athletes, specifically those less predisposed toward cycling, were to participate. They instead take "fairness" to mean that a cyclist, runner and swimmer, all equally proficient, can each traverse the associated segment of the triathlon in approximately equal times. That is, the best swimmer in the world can complete the swimming segment in about the same amount of time as the best runner in the world can complete the running segment and the best cyclist the cycling segment. In this article this definition is used to derive fair triathlon proportions for various total elapsed times. By the calculations used here, a fair proportion for swimming/cycling /running would change from the current Iron Man 1:11:48 or World Championship 1:7:27 to 1:3.5:8. In addition, the equal variance argument is discussed, and a plan for the Ultimate Paris-to-London Triathlon is presented. (JGL)

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