A better storyline could not have been written for the 2015 ITU World Triathlon Grand Final in Chicago, USA. Lining up in the men’s PT4 race was the veteran Yannick Bourseaux of France looking for his third World Championships title and his first since 2012; reigning world champion Martin Schulz of Germany being undefeated in para-triathlon events in 2015 and looking for his third straight title; and newcomer Stefan Daniel of Canada, the 18-year-old only in his third year competing internationally and looking for his first world title.
There were lead changes, flat tires, and a guaranteed spot for the Rio 2016 Paralympic Games in Rio on the line. Ultimately, Daniel claimed the top spot in the race, as well as the No. 10 spot in the International Paralympic Committee’s Top 50 Moments of 2015.
“My focus this year has been to improve in all three areas,” Daniel said. “Since I am only 18, I still feel that I have a lot of work ahead of me before I reach my potential.”
That potential was needed to face off against two-time world champion Schulz. Schulz took top finishes at the two World Para-Triathlon Events he competed in in 2015 and was fresh off a victory at the para-triathlon test event in Rio prior to Chicago.
But in Chicago, Schulz and Daniel both had struggles throughout the race. Coming out of the first leg (swimming), Schulz had a 30-second lead on Daniel.
“I missed the swim pack which was disappointing,” Daniel said. “I have had better swims throughout the year. I knew I was still very much in the race. I wasn’t going to let myself get discouraged.”
During the second leg (cycling), both Daniel and Schulz had to deal with flat tires.
“I’m not sure what happened,” Daniel said. “The mechanic took a look at it; there was no puncture or anything wrong with the tire. There was no point in stressing about it. I wasn’t able to do much of a warm-up before the race because of it, but I made the best of the situation.”
Both men were neck-and-neck in the final leg, which Daniel had the upper edge.
“Running is definitely my strength and I was happy I was able to put myself into a good position going out into the run,” he said. “Usually my legs come around after a kilometer, but this time I had nothing in them. I had to give it everything I had and was relieved to get to the finish first.”
That final push gave Daniel a 30-second lead and a final race time of 59:27. Schulz came in second at59:57. Bourseaux finished third in 1:00:37.
“It was a bit unexpected but I was pretty excited to secure a spot in Rio. Although I will do one or two para races next year, my focus is going to be racing junior elite,” said Daniel, who won his first Canadian Junior Elite National Championship against able-bodied athletes in July.
If there is one thing certain for Rio 2016, the men’s PT4 race will be an epic rematch.
To find out more about the IPC’s Top 50 Moments of 2015, visit the dedicated page on the IPC’s website.