Australia’s band of para triathletes have survived all “four seasons in one day” to dominate the 2023 World Triathlon Para Series opener in Devonport today.
The Series heralds the beginning of the road to Paris for many of them and next year’s Paralympics – the third time the sport has been included on the program that debuted in Rio in 2016 and saw the Aussies again line up in Tokyo 2020.
And today’s racing started out in overcast conditions, with a wetsuit swim in the cool Tasmanian surf, before drizzling rain caused some havoc with crashes on the bike and run legs before the sun started to break through during mid-morning.
Vision-impaired Commonwealth Games silver medallist WA’s Canberra-based Sam Harding and guide Luke Harvey were amongst those to take a tumble as athletes negotiated the slippery surfaces – Harding suffering superficial grazing to his knees and a bruised shoulder.
But the pair dusted themselves off and climbed back into stride to open their 2023 season with a gold medal in the PTVI category.
“It was the first time we’ve been down (fallen) and hopefully we’re not too banged up from that little slide that saw six of us go down,” said Harvey, with the pair setting their sights on the World Championships and the Paralympic Qualification race later in the year in Montreal.
Tokyo silver medallist, Newcastle’s three-time world champion Lauren Parker managed to navigate the technical course, adding her fifth Devonport victory as a paratriathlete after starting her association with the iconic venue back in 2018 as she launched what has been a spectacular para triathlon career.
“It’s so good to get another win here in Devonport – it’s my sixth time here as a paratriathlete and it was great to get out there in the first race of the season and get that win,” said Parker, aiming for her second Paralympics in Paris, with gold in her sights.
“For me, now on in, I’ll be focusing on every race and trying to learn from every race and getting to know what I need to work on over the next 18 months and going into every race wanting to win.
“My goal is to head into Paris as the world champion and I’ll look to defend my title at the World Championships this year with all eyes focused on Paris.”
Parker’s Tokyo teammate David Bryant and emerging star Jack Howell provided a 1-2 finish for Australia in the PTS5 category with Bryant saying how special it was to race in Devonport, where it all began for him five years ago.
“This is where it all started for me in Paratriathlon back in 2018 and to have my family here, is special,” said Bryant, who admitted it was a deceivingly tricky course to navigate on the bike and who will now plan for the Paralympic qualification period, basing himself in Spain later in the year.
“We’ve spent 10 days down here in Tasmania with everything it has to offer and to get acclimatised as well so really great to top it off with first Para Triathlon Series win,”
“Coming into the final part of the bike I was certainly a bit more cautious, that’s for sure.”
Meanwhile WA’s former world champion Sally Pilbeam opened her 2023 account with an impressive return to the winners list in the PTS4 women’s category, taking the win from US pair Emma Myers and Kelly Worrell.
Pilbeam said it was nice to race in Devonport again with very little wind, a cold swim and a tricky T1 change over before the rain and a little bit sketchy with a few bikes coming down left, right and centre.
“But I was pleased to stay up right on the bike....and then I really pushed in the run, I was really happy and good to get the win,” said the 45-year-old school teacher, Pilbeam.
“I’m fortunate I’m not working full-time and I call myself a full-time athlete now – the kids are a little bit older and enjoying a bit more independence which helps but really enjoying getting back into the training space again and really focusing on it after a bit of a break which I think I needed.
“It is really nice to come back with a bit of renewed energy – and a slightly different mindset so it’s good."
The goal for me now is eyes on Paris, the first time our category has been in for a Paralympic Games stand-alone so – that’s the ultimate goal and the main reason I decided to come back.
“I’m still playing catch up in the rankings and I’m playing catch up a bit so we’ll do a couple more races before we hit the qualifying period – to go for Paris next year.”
Maggie Sandles with guide Felicity Cradick win Gold on Sandles World Triathlon debut, Justin Godfrey and Jeremy Peacock continue their 2022 form with another series Gold, Nic Beveridge comes away with a World Para Series Bronze, and Glen Jarvis Bronze in the PTS2.
Devonport Para Series Results
Nic Beveridge (PTWC) | Bronze
Lauren Parker (PTWC) | Gold
Glen Jarvis (PTS2) | Bronze
Brant Garvey (PTS2) | 4th
Anu Francis (PTS2) | DNF
Justin Godfrey (PTS3) | Gold
Jeremy Peacock (PTS4) | Gold
Liam Twomey (PTS4) | 4th
Sally Pilbeam (PTS4) | Gold
David Bryant (PTS5) | Gold
Jack Howell (PTS5) | Silver
Kate Naess (PTS5) | DNF
Sam Harding (PTVI) & Luke Harvey (Guide) | Gold
Maggie Sandles (PTVI) & Felicity Cradick (Guide) | Gold
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