Lauren Parker has created her own slice of Australian triathlon history in Abu Dhabi today, hanging on to win her third PT Wheelchair Paratriathlon world title in dramatic circumstances.
The 33-year-old Tokyo Paralympic silver medallist from Newcastle, showed all of her tenacity and never-say-die attitude to overcome a mechanical issue on the handcycle, a stomach bug and Abu Dhabi’s searing heat.
Parker added world title number three to her first World Championship win in Lausanne in 2019 and her second last year in Abu Dhabi – holding off her 2021 Paralympic rival, American Kendall Gretsch.
Gretsch (PTWC2) had started 3 mins 42 seconds behind Parker (PTWC1) and the rest of the field and despite a superb swim, Parker lost valuable time on the handcycle (bike leg) when she was forced to pull over with issues with her gears.
She lost valuable minutes and Gretsch gradually ate into the lead, narrowing the gap to 30 seconds inside the final wheelchair (run) lap – but Parker held on to take the win by 15 seconds in 1 hour 08.43 to Gretsch’s 1:09.08 with Brazil’s Jessica Ferreira (1:11.12) taking bronze. Australia’s Sara Tait was ninth in 1:27.51.
“My gears stopped working on the first lap of the bike so I had to change batteries...but I overcame that...kept pushing on and I did it....” Parker said after the race.
“There was no panic, I had a spare battery on the bike and so I just swapped it over; it must have drained between warm up and the start of the race and I’m not sure what happened there...I was just lucky I had the spare battery– I just had to stay positive and keep pushing.”
Parker admitted she didn’t have the best training preparation, saying: “I just had a few issues with my preparation.
“I did the Kona Ironman five weeks ago and I recovered pretty well from that followed by five weeks prep for this one, but I was able to do it....
“I love a technical course and I wish it was a bit more hilly as well out there but it was a great surface, great roads and you couldn’t ask for a better course, I really loved it.”
Today’s race unfolded into almost a carbon copy of one of the most dramatic finishes of any race which saw Gretsch’s final wheel push grab the gold from Parker’s grasp at the Tokyo Paralympics.
The only difference today was that Parker managed to hang on with Gretsch unable to catch the determined Australian who is building a record as one of triathlon’s greats – a relieved Parker greeted by long-serving transition handler, Dave Robertson.
With Parker winning her third world title, she joins 2008 Olympic triathlon gold medallist Emma Snowsill who won three Elite Female World Titles in 2003, 2005 and 2006.
In Paratriathlon, Katie Kelly, Emily Tapp and Sally Pilbeam (who started her comeback in Abu Dhabi today) have all won two world titles.
Joining Parker on the podium were Jeremy Peacock (PTS4) and Anu Francis (PTS2) who both claimed hard fought and satisfying bronze medals in testing conditions, with temperatures reaching 30 degrees as the day went on.
Melbourne-based Peacock charged to his bronze medal in the PTS4 category, celebrating his performance as he crossed the finish line. Teammate Liam Twomey (1:10.42) finished 11th.
Twenty-six-year-old Francis has a progressive and rare form of Dystonia (which is a neurological condition that causes a variety of impairments including hypertonia (high muscle tone), involuntary muscle movements, and gait abnormalities.
And she has taken another step towards her goal of representing Australia at the 2024 Paralympics in Paris.
In other results for the Australians, Tokyo Paralympian David Bryant and Jack Howell were fourth and seventh respectively in the PTS5 category – Bryant in another consistent performance – following his fourths in the World Para Series races in Swansea and Yokohama.
WA’s Bryant clocked 1:01.37 and was right in contention through the entire race, unable to claim a podium, finishing behind Stefan Daniel (CAN) 58:24; Martin Schultz (GER) 59.13 and Chris Hammer (USA) 1:00.50.
In the PTVI Men, Tokyo track and field Paralympian and Commonwealth Games paratriathlon silver medallist Sam Harding (with guide Luke Harvey) continued his march towards Paris 2024 with a close up sixth (1:02.12) with his Birmingham conqueror Dave Ellis claiming gold in 59.13. Commonwealth Games bronze medallist Jonathan Goerlach (with guide Harry Wiles) was 14th.
In the PTWC Men it was Australia’s Paralympian and 2018 Commonwealth Games silver medallist Nic Beveridge who finish seventh in 1:06.37 with unstoppable Dutch legend Jetze Platz taking yet another gold in 57:56.
On the comeback trail with her sights set on Paris, WA’s 44-year-old two-time World Champion Sally Pilbeam, finished seventh (1:24.12) in the PTS4 women – the gold going to Spain’s Andrea Miguelez Ranz (1:12.52).
Justin Godfrey, two-time 2022 World Para Series gold medallist (Yokohama and Montreal), remained in the mix for much of the PTS3 race, eventually crossing the line in fifth place with a time of 01:16:48, behind champion Danial Molina of Spain.
While in the PTS2 category Glen Jarvis (1:22.42) finished eighth with Jules Ribstein (FRA) winning the gold in 1:08.02.
For a full guide to the remaining events at the Abu Dhabi World Championships; including team lists across Elites, U23 and Age Group, racing schedules and how to watch, visit triathlon.org.au >>