Australia’s 15-strong Paratriathlon team has converged on Abu Dhabi to put their stamp on the 2022 World Championships – and they know it will be a case of “game on!”
The Para team will kick start the Abu Dhabi campaign for Australia which will see the World Championships in all Paratriathlon categories on Thursday (2:00pm-6:30pm AEST) on a program that will now include the inaugural Open Paratriathlon Mixed Relay (Saturday 1:15pm-2.45pm AEST).
Triathlon Australia’s Paralympic Performance Manager Kyle Burns admits he has a group to get excited about with a blend of experienced athletes such as Paralympians, 2018 Commonwealth Games silver medallist Nic Beveridge (PTWC) and 2022 Birmingham bronze medallist Jonathan Goerlach (PTVI) who will know what needs to be done to take on the world’s best.
“There are also athletes in Anu Francis (PTS2) and Jeremy Peacock (PTS4) who have both tasted success this year and are looking forward to the chance to show that the team is growing and moving together as one,” said Burns.
“Every class is throwing up fields that go deeper in depth and stronger in performance, and Team Australia knows that they will have to be at their best to take on the rest of the world, but they are ready as a group.”
The Aussies have a decorated history when it comes to Paratriathlon and have been at the forefront of the sport as it celebrates more than a decade of presence in a discipline of triathlon that has grown from strength to strength, through two Paralympic cycles from its debut in Rio, onto Tokyo and now as some prepare for Paris in 2024.
Thursday’s World Championships in the searing and testing temperatures of the UAE capital, will serve up some tantalising match ups – none better than another re-match of two of the world’s greatest female wheelchair athletes – Australia’s two-time World Paratriathlon Champion (PTWC) and recently crowned Hawaiian Ironman conqueror Lauren Parker verses American rival and Paralympic gold medallist Kendall Gretsch.
It was Gretsch who clutched the Paralympic gold from Parker in a last gasp heart-breaking final wheel push on the line in Tokyo in 2021.
But it has been Parker who has triumphed ever since, maintaining an unbeaten record, including last year’s second World title in Abu Dhabi and two resounding wins over Gretsch in this year’s World Para Series races in Montreal and Swansea.
Burns says Parker’s strong year so far continues to lay the base towards future races and the opportunity to become a three-time World Champion.
“With wins in Montreal, Swansea and then the Hawaii Ironman, Lauren shows that she has the desire to continually grow as an athlete and improve in all aspects of her racing,” said Burns.
“The chance to be a three-time World Champion is a big opportunity that Lauren would (certainly) like to create.”
Burns is also excited about the journey of vision-impaired Tokyo track and field Paralympian Sam Harding who has made a successful transition to Paratriathlon, which has already seen him win silver at this year’s Birmingham Commonwealth Games.
“Sam and his guide Luke Harvey have had a big year that has included adapting to a new sport, qualifying for the Commonwealth Games and bringing home that silver medal in the PTVI class.” said Burns.
“But this race is the one that that they both marked down to see how things are shaping up for the coming two years.
‘It has been a quick rise and new experiences but they have both adapted and risen to the challenge.”
The return of former two-time World Champion, WA’s remarkable 44-year-old arm-amputee mum, Sally Pilbeam who has come back to reset with a chance to fulfil her Paralympic dream.
With her PTS4 class now a medal within its own right, Burns says newcomers will likely be looking to put their mark on the class.
“But there will also be several experienced PTS4 females like Sally that will want to be there in 2024, so this will make for some competitive racing across the class,” Burns said.
Also looking towards Paris will be 38-year-old Albury leg amputee warrior Justin Godfrey (PTS3) who, is still coming back to full fitness after returning to the sport.
Godfrey gets stronger with every race and these World Championships are a chance to show he belongs as someone who should be considered a strong prospect towards Paris.
“Justin knows what it takes to win a medal at World Championships,” says Burns, having won two previously and he has the desire to show he is still a medal contender at the top level,” said Burns.
After the Para World Champions are crowned, it will be the World Championships for the Under 23s that will start a busy Friday program (Women: 1.30pm-3.30pm AEST | Men: 4:15pm-6.15pm AEST), which will be followed by the World Triathlon Series Grand Final for Elite Women also on Friday (7:06pm-9.06pm AEST).
The Elite Men’s Grand Final event will conclude the Abu Dhabi racing schedule on Saturday (9:06pm-11:00pm AEST).
Lauren Parker (PTWC)
Sara Tait (PTWC)
Anu Francis (PTS2)
Sally Pilbeam (PTS4)
Nic Beveridge (PTWC)
Glen Jarvis (PTS2)
Justin Godfrey (PTS3)
Liam Twomey (PTS4)
Jeremy Peacock (PTS4)
David Bryant (PTS5)
Jonathan Goerlach (PTVI) & Guide Harry Wiles
Jack Howell (PTS5)
Sam Harding (PTVI) & Guide Luke Harvey
For more information on racing schedules and how to watch, visit triathlon.org.au >>