They have come from all walks of life and overcome amazing hurdles to reach the top of their sport and now the official announcement of our Australian team featuring two Queensland paratriathletes and Queensland legend Michellie Jones as guide.
The Australian Paralympic Committee has put the icing on its 2016 Rio team with the announcement of its first ever paratriathletes.
A six-strong team of three men and three women plus one guide will create history when the sport makes its debut and two of them, Queensland athletes.
Men: Bill Chaffey (QLD) PT1, Nic Beveridge (ACT) PT1, Brant Garvey (WA) PT2
Women: Katie Kelly (ACT) Michellie Jones (QLD) guide; PT5, Kate Doughty (VIC) PT4 and Claire McLean (WA) PT4
The team will be spearheaded by one of the most successful paratriathletes on the ITU circuit, the Tweed Heads/Gold Coast five-time ITU World Champion Chaffey and 2015-16 Triathlon Queensland Paratriathlete of the Year, who was run down by a truck whilst training for the Hawaii Ironman in 2005.
Queensland’s Chaffey, the poster boy of the sport in the lead up to Rio said: “For me after winning the ITU World Championship last year and securing a spot for Australia was the first box ticked, but I knew I had to keep pushing and kept thinking nothing else but the green and gold all the way to that final announcement.
“It drove me on every day, but I wasn’t going to get really excited until it all became official.
“I kept pushing myself to be the best, that comes naturally to me. My age (at 40) is no barrier but I do get a few extra aches and pains but they don’t last long. It has been a long haul but one I would not swap for the world.”
He will be joined in the PT1 Class by fellow wheelchair athlete, Queenslander, Nic Beveridge, who was struck down by a sudden and debilitating trans¬verse myelitis virus in 2003 that has left him a paraplegic.
He was a fit, hard-working student and budding water polo player who has turned his sporting prowess to paratriathlon.
Beveridge said: “I began training for paratriathlons in 2013 because I felt compelled to get started in the sport.
“My goal has always been to find out how far I can go with it and the extent to which I can develop.
“I liked to think that would involve representing Australia at some point, but was not something I expected.
“Being selected for a Paralympic Games is an opportunity I will make the most of, and look forward to doing so alongside my friends and team mates that I have shared the last few years with.”
The seventh member of the team – who adds her own slice of Olympic history to the story, is Queensland’s very own celebrated Olympic silver medallist from Sydney 2000 and ITU and Ironman World Champion, Michellie Jones who will act as the Guide for vision-impaired paratriathlete Katie Kelly (ACT).
Jones won her silver medal when the sport of triathlon debuted at the Sydney 2000 Olympic Games in and around Sydney Harbour and the pair won the PT5 ITU World Championship in Chicago last year.
Now 16 years later Jones is again involved in another landmark event for her sport saying she was excited to be a member of the Australian Paralympic Team.
“Having the opportunity to act as the Guide for Katie Kelly in the first ever paratriathlon event is not only historic but also humbling and inspirational,” said Jones, who at 46, recently chalked up her 11th victory in her hometown Carlsbad Sprint Distance Triathlon.
“They all have amazing stories and have overcome many obstacles and I’m truly blessed to be a part of the journey"
"Of course a huge thanks to coach Corey Bacon's vision to partner me with Katie Kelly - it has been an awesome journey so far and Rio is just icing on the cake.
"I am excited to help Katie achieve her Olympic aspirations and my goal on race day is to ensure Katie has the best day possible on Sept 11."
Photos: Delly Carr