Morphology and performance of world championship triathletes

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Performance is related to body morphology in many sports. With triathlon making its debut into the Olympic programme in 2000, it was deemed important to determine which physical characteristics of elite-level triathletes were significantly related to performance. Seventy-one elite and junior elite triathletes, from 11 nations, competing at the 1997 World Triathlon Championships were measured on a battery of 28 anihropometric dimensions. A factor analysis was conducted, which reduced the number of variables to four and these were used in a stepwise linear regression to determine which morphological factors were important to performance. Elite triathletes were significantly (p <0.05) faster than their junior counterparts (males 1:52:26 vs. 2:03:23 and females 2:07:01 vs. 2:14:05) and showed less variation in performance times. Run time variation was the largest of the component disciplines and tended to show the importance of this discipline to the final outcome. Following a factor analysis the four distinguishable morphological factors that emerged were: robustness, adiposity, segmental lengths and skeletal mass. Relating these factors to the total time obtained by the triathletes in this study yielded a regression equation that correlated significantly with all triathletes, accounting for 47% of the variance in total triathlon duration. The regression equations illustrated the importance of low levels of adiposity for elite triathletes for total time and most of the subdisciplines. The other factor that showed importance was that proportionally longer segmental lengths contributed to successful swimming outcome.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)387-400
JournalAnnals of Human Biology
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 2000


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