Jones, now 45 and the reigning ITU World Champion in her age category, answered the call from Triathlon Australia’s Paratriathlon head coach Corey Bacon and will act as Kelly’s guide on what will be an exciting road they hope will see them both in Rio next year.
The two-time International Triathlon Union (ITU) World Champion (1992 and 1993), 2000 Olympic silver medallist and 2006 Hawaiian Ironman winner, is a Triathlon Australia Hall of Famer who was last year inducted into the Sport Australia Hall of Fame.
The pair will team up for the first time in the PT5 category (vision impaired athletes) before embarking on the Rio Test Event on August 1; the Detroit WPE on August 16 and the World Championships in Chicago on September 17.
In the Paratriathlon event for Vision Impaired athletes, the guide is attached to the athlete by a tether on the swim and the run, and a tandem bike is used for the cycle.
Jones, who now lives in Carisbad, California, said: “Triathlon is such an amazing sport and one which requires you to push yourself to the limits.
“I am inspired by Paratriathletes such as Katie who compete at the top level whilst overcoming some quite significant impairment challenges.
“I’m looking forward to racing again and taking part in what is sure to be an amazing event.
“I know that Katie is determined to rank in the top three so my competitive streak will certainly kick-in to help her get to the podium.”
Kelly is currently ranked number 13 in the world after two recent gold medal wins in Australia last month – the first at the WPE held at the Sunshine Coast where she recorded a world class time of 1:15:26 and the second at the National Championships at Redcliffe where she recorded a time of 1:16:59 both over the Paralympic sprint distance.
“The recent gold medal wins mean I have put myself in the frame to be selected for the first of several big races including the World Championships in Chicago to be held on 17 September this year,” said Kelly, who now resides in Canberra and trains under Bacon.
“My ultimate aim is to make the Australian Paratriathlon team for the 2016 Rio Paralympics – where the sport will make its debut on the Paralympic level.”
Bacon described his charge as world class and believes Kelly has the potential to bring home a medal from Rio in 2016.
“That potential is made even greater as she teams up with Michellie Jones as her guide,” said Bacon.
Kelly is one of six Australians on the Paralympic start line in Yokohama. Matt Brumby (VIC), Justin Godfrey (NSW), Kate Doughty (VIC), Glen Jarvis (NSW) and Emily Tapp (QLD) will join her.
Triathlon Australia’s Paralympic Program Manager, Kathryn Perriac said: “The race in Yokohama provides a valuable opportunity for some of the less experienced paratriathletes on the Australian squad to experience racing strong fields in the higher pressure atmosphere of a dual WTS/WPE race.
“There is a nice mix of world class and less experienced athletes racing in most classes, so a well-executed race by any of the Australians could result in a potential podium finish.
“Ranking points earned in Yokohama will be critical to maximising the number of Australians who get onto the start lists at the 2015 World Championships in Chicago.”
Here is a run down on the Australians competing in Yokohama:
Matt Brumby: The Victorian PT1 athlete finished second to Bill Chaffey in the Oceania Championships, and then 3rd behind Chaffey and Giovanni Achenza at the Sunshine Coast WPE. Achenza finished 3rd to Jetze Plat (NED) and Chaffey in the strong Madrid field last weekend. He will be joined by 2014 World Champion Krige Schabort (USA), who recently won the CAMTRI American Championships convincingly. Matt was a Navy diver when he had his accident several years ago.
Justin Godfrey: The Albury PT3 athlete, finished 6th at World Championships in 2014. Raced in PT4 at Yokohama before being reclassified to PT3 at the World Championships. He is coming back into good form following successful surgery to improve his stump to better support the demands of Elite Paratriathlon racing. The Brazilian Jorge Luis Fonseca finished 4th at the World Championships last year and is the best known of Justin’s opposition.
Kate Doughty: This will be her off-shore debut in paratriathlon. The PT4 athlete started racing triathlon this year after a successful international career as an Equestrian competitor. The daughter of a Melbourne bookmaker she has sold her horse and bought a bike and is improving with each race. Most recently she won the Australian Championships at Redcliffe. Her opposition are not well known, although the Hungarian Petra Levay finished 2nd in the Madrid WPE last weekend.
Glen Jarvis: Also from Albury Glen finished 4th at Yokohama last year completing the event with a stress fracture which kept him out of last year’s World Championships. The leading PT2 athlete on the start line is the USA’s Mark Barr who was 4th in Edmonton and won the US Championships two weeks ago. He will be challenged by GBR’s Andrew Lewis who finished 3rd in Madrid.
Katie Kelly (and Michellie Jones): Katie’s main opposition is Zsofia Lengyel from Hungary who finished 4th in the recent Madrid WPE and the Japanese athlete Atsuko Yamada who Katie defeated on the Sunshine Coast. Their next race will hopefully be at the Iseo WPE in Italy in July. Kelly has almost no points on the ranking list, so getting into races which have fields capped at 4-5 is tricky. Iseo has low entries at the moment, but entries won’t close until mid June.
Emily Tapp: The only entrant in the PT1 women in Yokohama. Because the class is not one of those included in Rio the other nations are not supporting their girls in this class. But Emily will be all the better racer for this experience.
Rio Paralympic Qualifying period doesn’t start until 1st July 2015 and ends 30th June 2016. Three scores to count, so optimal scores will be from 2015 World Championships, 2016 Oceania Championships and one WPE. The races now are critical to get athletes onto the 2015 World Championships start list which is decided, like the triathlon races, by the ITU Ranking List points.