“I’m trying to whittle down my transition time as best as I can, but you can only switch your legs so quickly."
There are an extra couple of minutes in the sport of Para-Triathlon that not everybody always sees.
But at next month’s World Championships in Beijing on 7 September, the USA’s JP Theberge hopes to trim those minutes, which come during “transition time,” down to just seconds.
As an amputee competing in the TRI-5 category against other amputees and those with other leg impairments, Theberge, a two-time world champion, drew attention to what makes the transition phases in Para-Triathlon so unique.
After swimming the first stage of the race – which athletes do without any prosthetics – competitors put on their running legs to sprint to the transition zone, where they then must put on their bike legs.
The bike leg actually has neither a foot nor a shoe, according to Theberge, who described it as a peg leg with a bike attachment at the bottom.
“It’s almost like a pirate leg, practically,” Theberge said.
“I’m trying to whittle down my transition time as best as I can, but you can only switch your legs so quickly. You still have to hop out of the water, somebody has to assist you and hop you to a chair where you can get your wetsuit off, put your leg on and run to the transition area.”
Then, after the cycling stage, athletes must swap their legs once again.
“You come back into transition, you hop off your bike on your peg leg to your transition, and then you slap on your running leg and you’re off just like everybody else,” Theberge said.
The American, who lost his leg in a motorcycle accident in 1997, ultimately has his sights set on competing at the Rio 2016 Paralympic Games, where Para-Triathlon will be part of the programme for the first time.
In the last few years, Theberge has whittled down his transition time so much that he has been able to finish in the top five or six spots in able-bodied triathlons and compete among the world’s best.
Now, he has just about two weeks left to trim it before going for his third Para-Triathlon world title.