As we all come off the high of watching the awesome performances at the Tokyo 2020 Olympics, we turn our attention to the upcoming Paralympic Games that are sure to be just as exciting.
The first Paralympics event was held in1960, but it wasn’t till 2016 when ‘Paratriathlon’ made its official debut as a medal sport, featuring at the Rio de Janeiro, Brazil event. Since then, paratriathlon continues to grow and is fast becoming one of the most inspirational parts of the sport.
But for those not ‘in the know’, some might mistakenly believe athletes with any disability are automatically placed in the same paratriathlon category; others use paratriathlon interchangeably with programs like the Special Olympics, which is also inaccurate.
To gain a better understanding of paratriathlon ahead of the triathlon races in the Paralympics we’ve put some info down about the classification systems and which Aussies to keep an eye out for as they go for gold at Tokyo 2020!!
First up, what is Paratriathlon?
Simply put, paratriathlon is a category within a triathlon race for athletes with certain physical disabilities. Like other categories you might see at club or commercial events around NSW, paratriathlon categories offer athletes the chance to compete against people who are physically similar.
This is critical because the concept is designed to allow races to be fair for all, but also inclusive of athletes with all abilities. Each different category requires unique accommodations be made for a disability, like a blind athlete who requires a guide or an amputee athlete who wears a prosthetic device.
The classification system explained
The classification system exists to provide a competitive structure that minimizes the impact of any given impairment on the outcome of the competition—by placing athletes with similar activity limitations in triathlon against each other.
An athlete’s classification also takes into account all their impairments and attempts to put them in the appropriate category, even though athletes’ specific disabilities may vary within the classification. Within paratriathlon, there are nine sport classes competing in six medal events.
PTWC – Wheelchair users.
‘PTWC’ and ‘PTWC2’ refers to wheelchair users, who use a recumbent handcycle on the bike course and a racing wheelchair on the run segment. Importantly, both PTWC classes will compete in the same medal event in Tokyo.
Two Australian athletes will represent the ‘Green and Gold’ on the start line for in the PTWC event – including Emily Tapp (TACT) and our very own ‘golden girl’ and proud Novocastrian, Lauren Parker.
Lauren has remained an inspiration for the town of Newcastle, the state of NSW and the entire Australian country with a list of ‘wins’ that would mean she would be the firm favourite for victory in Tokyo 2020.
Her results include taking out the Para Triathlon Wheelchair (PTWC) event at the 2019 World Championships in Lausanne. Previous to this, Parker won bronze in PTWC at the 2018 World Championships as well as the 2018 Commonwealth Games, both held on the Gold Coast.
Lauren Parker was honoured in the Ian Thorpe AM Outstanding Achievement category for a second consecutive year at the 2019 NSWIS Awards. After winning the accolade in 2018 also, the 2019 award again recognised Parker’s ongoing battle to overcome her tragic training accident in 2017.
Joining these two inspirational ladies will also be Australia’s Nic Beveridge. Nic is the current world No.8 in the PTWC classification and the entire country is behind him as he races for gold!
PT – Athletes with impaired range of movement or amputees with approved prosthesis
PT categories refer to those with physical impairments, such as athletes with impaired range of movement or amputee athletes who use approved prosthesis (for example, a specialty prosthetic leg known as a ‘Running blade’ or other supportive devices during the bike and run segments.
Each PT category competes in their own medal events—though, notably, not every classification category is contested at every Paralympics. It’s broken down into four further ‘subsections’ of the classification.
- PTS2: Severe impairments.
- PTS3: Significant impairments.
- PTS4: Moderate impairments.
- PTS5: Mild impairments.
Lining up in the is the PTS5 class is David Bryant (world No.12). The past 18 months has seen a rapid rise in the world paratriathon ranks racing around the world on the Paratriathlon elite circuit.
VI- Visually Impaired Athletes.
VI categories refer to those who race with visual impairments. When racing in this category, one guide from the same nationality and gender is mandatory. During the race, they must ride a tandem bike during the bike segment. All VI classes compete in the PTVI medal event at the Paralympics.
All VI classes compete in the PTVI medal event at the Paralympics and are broken into three classes:
- PTVI1: Athletes who are totally blind.
- PTVI2: Severe, partially-sighted athletes.
- PTVI3: Less severe partially-sighted athletes.
It should be noted that the PTVI compete in one class in the Paralympics and the event adds a “factoring” system —ie. a head start is given to athletes with more severe impairments, based on the above classification system.
Making his debut at this level of competition is Jonathan Goerlach, (World No 4. In the PTVI division) competing with guide Dave Mainwaring.
Nowra-born para-triathlete Jonathan Goerlach was recently rewarded for his remarkable season, by claiming one of Triathlon Australia's annual awards. Goerlach, who is a current member of ‘Sydney Triathlon Group’, was named male para-triathlon performance of the year award, after a stellar season of racing culminating in a .
Reigning gold medallist Katie Kelly became Australia’s first Paralympic triathlon champion when she and guide Michellie Jones won the PT5 classification at Rio 2016. She is back to defend her crown but this time with new guide Briarna Silk and in the PTVI category.
Katie is also a 2 x times World Champion and continues to give back as the founder of Sport Access Foundation - helping young Aussies with disability access sport.
How to watch and when?
In Tokyo, the paratriathlon races will take place over two days.
Saturday 28th August at 7.30 am NSW Time.
- Mens PTVI (Visually Impaired) - Jonathan Goerlach guided by Dave Mainwaring
- Womens PTVI (Visually Impaired) - Katie Kelly guided by Briarna Silk
Sunday 29th August August at 7.30 am NSW Time.
- Mens PTWC (Wheelchair) – Nic Beveridge
- Womens PTWC (Wheelchair) – Lauren Parker and Emily Tapp
- Mens PTS5 - David Bryant