This year’s World Paratriathlon Event (WPE) circuit is more important than ever as qualification for the sport’s debut at the Rio 2016 Paralympic Games ramps up. A total of 10 events are on the circuit, starting on 1 March in Buffalo City, South Africa, and touching down on every continent before concluding in Chicago, USA, with the World Championships.
In addition to racking up points to punch a ticket to the Windy City in September, para-triathletes will begin securing points for Rio qualification at the Iseo – Franciacorta ITU World Paratriathlon Event. All of the WPE races from then until 30 June 2016 will serve as critical races to synch up one of the 60 available spots. While six sport classes will debut in Rio, WPE races will feature all 10 sport classes. Here is who to watch this para-triathlon season.
Up until 2014, there was one major player in the women’s PT1 sport class – Great Britain’s Jane Egan. The three-time World Champ and four-time European queen attempted a fourth title in Edmonton last year, but her gold medal haul came to a halt when the USA’s Kendall Gretsch garnered gold. Despite just one season under her belt competing, the American destroyed the field by more than five minutes. Gretsch’s teammates Mary Catherine Callahan and Diana Helt have also been picked to perform this year.
The talented Bill Chaffey of Australia was notably missing from the PTI World Championship line-up last year after suffering broken bones in his pelvis that derailed his chance to collect a fifth world title. But nothing keeps this Aussie down for long. Look for him to be back in action and better than ever this season. Chaffey’s stiffest competition is likely to come from the USA’s Krige Schabort, who finished not far behind Chaffey at the World Championships two years ago and stepped up last year to take his first world title in Chaffey’s absence. An accomplished hand cyclist, Jetze Plat made the jump to triathlon with success two years ago, so look for this Dutch star to add to the competition. The rivalry will no doubt heat up even more with a Paralympic berth on the line.
Another newcomer to triathlon, Nora Hansel quickly made a name for herself as one to watch. The German won all of her races in her debut season last year, including the World Championships, taking the title away from the USA’s defending champion Hailey Danisewicz. Fellow US athlete Melissa Stockwell took a break from racing last year to become a mother, but all signs point to a return for the former World Champ. Young Brazilian Yasmin Martin is also one to keep in mind as thoughts turn to Rio.
The young Russian Vasily Egorov announced himself as a serious threat to the men’s PT2 when he broke onto the scene last year with European and World Championship titles, the latter of which he won by more than a minute. Despite being re-classified to PT2 from PT3 last year, Italy’s Michele Ferrarin continued on with his winning ways, winning a WPE event last year and finishing second only to Egorov at the World Championships. The USA’s Mark Barr and France’s Stephane Bahier will also mix it up. Take notice of these PT2 men and women, as they look ahead to Rio qualification.
After being reclassified to PT3, Australia’s Sally Pilbeam found her stride last year, capped off an undefeated season with her first world title by more than five minutes. The Netherlands’ Saskia Van Den Ouden will serve as her biggest rival.
In one of the more unexpected wins last year, France’s Lionel Hiffler beat out a talented start list in the men’s PT3 to earn his first world title since 2010. Look for some hot races to take place in Europe, as both Austria’s Oliver Dreier and Italy’s Alessio Borgato are also strong in the sport class.
Dominated by a talented crew of British ladies, women’s PT4 is a sport class to keep your eye on. Last year, two-time Paralympic swimmer Lauren Steadman ended compatriot Faye Mcclelland’s reign as the PT4 World Champion. Add in teammate Clare Cunningham and the Brits have a monopoly on this sport class, which is one to be contested in Rio. Their biggest threat comes from Italian Irene Riviera.
One of the most competitive sport classes amongst the men, Germany’s Martin Schulz last year blew by over a minute to win his second consecutive world crown. But do not count out France’s Yannick Bourseaux who was injured much of last year, as well as last year’s silver medallist Canada’s Stefan Daniel and Spain’s rising talent Jairo Ruiz Lopez. With so much depth, this sport class is going to be exciting to watch on the Road to Rio.
Great Britain’s Alison Patrick announced her intent in the women’s PT5 when she beat out pre-race favourites Susana Rodriguez of Spain and Great Britain’s Melissa Reid for her inaugural world title. With women’s PT4 and PT5 sport classes both destined for Rio, Great Britain’s team is looking well primed to punch a few tickets for the sunny destination.
After relinquishing his world title last year, the USA’s Aaron Scheidies reclaimed the crown taking his World Championship medal haul to three in dominating fashion. While Brits Dave Ellis and Chris Goodwin enjoyed success in the sport class in years past, there was a changing of the guards on the medal stands last season with Vasyl Zakrevskyi and Alen Kobilica gaining ground, so look for new fresh talent to populate the podium.