Paratriathletes Bill Chaffey and Emily Tapp will be the first nominations onto the Australian team for next year’s 2018 Commonwealth Games following outstanding performances in today’s first World Paratriathlon Series race on the Gold Coast.
Five-time ITU world champion and Rio Paralympian Chaffey and Tapp, who was forced off the Rio Paralympic track and field team after burning her legs, both fulfilled the nomination criteria – when they were the first Australians home.
Chaffey, a Gold Coast local, finished second to Netherlands Paralympic gold medallist Jetze Plat in the PT Hand Cycle class in the WPS event while Canberra-based Northern Territorian, Tapp won the same class for females.
Both will be nominated by Triathlon Australia to the Commonwealth Games Association for the Gold Coast 2018 Games, when paratriathlon debuts at the Games, starting on April 4 next year.
Chaffey, the man who has been the flagship for the sport of Paratriathlon since winning his first paratriathlon World title on the Gold Coast in 2009 was fourth in Rio and has returned to Australia determined to qualify for a home Commonwealth Games.
“Today was important to me because I wanted to be the first Aussie home, I wanted that, I wanted that automatic nomination for the Commonwealth Games,” said the 41-year-old trainee police prosecutor.
“It would have been nice to have won the race but realistically I didn’t think I was in the same field as Jetze (Plat), who is from the Netherlands.
“I was the first Aussie home from Australia and the Commonwealth nations, so I get the spot.
“I’m now 100 percent focused on the Commonwealth Games; there’s nothing binding me before that; I’ll just concentrate wholly and solely on the Commonwealth Games.”
Chaffey’s team mates Nic Beveridge and Scott Crowley were fifth and eighth respectively. Australia can have two nominations for the Games team, with the second position up to the discretion of selectors and will be finalized early next year.
For 25-year-old Tapp, born in Katherine, educated in Queensland and who now calls the ACT home, to take the first nomination for Gold Coast 2018 is a dream come true after her nightmare of 2017, when she was forced out of the Rio team after suffering burns to her legs.
She has since linked up with a new coach in Canberra, 2004 South African triathlon Olympian Megan Hall and expert wheelchair racing coach Fred Periac – with her eyes set on making the Games team.
She became a paraplegic in 2011 after a camp drafting accident in Katherine.
With no paratriathlon in her class for Rio she qualified for the track and field team in the 400m wheelchair class.
“Making the Commonwealth Games is so surreal; it is the cherry on the cake after the events of last year. I am really looking forward to having a great season of training just as hard and prepping.
“(Making the team) has been a far and distant dream; something I will keep dreaming about at night and training for during the day.
“(Last Year when I was forced out of the team for Rio) was heart breaking. I can only thank the support personnel around me.
“I’m not sure how I would gave survived otherwise; especially my coaches, they were there through the hardest (times) of all…
“They kept telling me to focus on the Commonwealth Games and Tokyo…’you’re still a young lady’ they said.
And when asked how long it took to get over the disappointment of missing Rio Tapp said: “Today….can I say today…it’s on-going really and I’m trying to use that experience and channel it in to something better.”
Gold Coast local Sarah Tait was third with American Mary Ann Callahan taking home the silver.
Tait will also place her herself at the discretion of the selectors, as she continues to race throughout the WPS season.
Meanwhile, in other events, Australia’s Paralympic gold medallist Katie Kelly (with guide Michellie Jones) finished fifth in a strategic decision to race but knowing she would have to walk the final four kilometres of the five kilometre run as she nursed her ailing calf.
Kelly will now set herself for the next race in Yokohama as she prepares to qualify for the ITU World Championships Grand Final in Rotterdam.
In the PTVI (vision impaired) Jonathan Goerlach take the gold and Gerrad Gosens gthe bronze; ITU world bronze medallist and Rio Olympian Kate Doughty won her division in the PTS5; World Cross Tri Champion Justin Godfrey from Albury won the new PTS3 class; while fellow West Australian and two-time ITU world champion Sally Pilbeam and Kerryn Harvey finished with gold and silver in the PTS4; Rio Olympian Brant Garvey (WA) won the bronze medal in the PTS2 class with Glen Jarvis sixth; new comer Clint Pickin was eighth in the PTS4; Josh Kassulke was fifth in the PTS5.