Sport Week: Ones to watch for Para triathlonReturning Paralympic champions from Rio 2016 will battle it out with debutants eager to get on the podium 16 Jul 2021
Para triathlon will make its second Paralympic Games appearance at Tokyo 2020, and will feature a mix of defending champions and newcomers all hoping to swim, bike and run their way to cross the finish line tape first.
Lauren Parker (AUS)
Former Ironman competitor Parker will make her Paralympic debut in Tokyo. She was involved in a serious cycle accident in 2017, but that did not stop her from returning to sport as she discovered Para triathlon. Just months later, she won a bronze medal at the 2018 Commonwealth Games. She has since gone on to become the world No. 1 in the PTWC, and is the current world champion. The Maori phrase of indigenous Polynesian people 'Kia Kaha' is tattooed on her forearm, meaning 'Forever Strong.'
Hector Catala Laparra (ESP)
Another Games’ debutant in the sport, Catala started his triathlon career in 2014. He is now ranked No.2 in the men’s PTVI class, which is a new addition to the programme at Tokyo 2020. The Spaniard has shown gradual progression over the years and is peaking at the right time. He took seventh at his first World Championships in 2015, just missed the podium in 2017 but followed up with bronze the next year. Then in 2019, Catala celebrated the biggest achievement of his sporting career with gold and he hopes to celebrate something bigger in Tokyo. He lives by the motto his father taught him - ‘Whatever you do, don't do it halfway.’
Fran Brown (GBR)
The 2019 World and European champion in the women’s PTS2 is also a former Para climber world champion. She took up Para triathlon to complement her climbing training, but then switched to the sport full-time in pursuit of a Paralympic title. Another Games debutant, Brown – who is also a physiotherapist and session musician – is inspired by lyrics from the hit musical Hamilton and has the show’s lyric ‘Not throwing away my shot’ inscribed on her bike.
Stefan Daniel (CAN)
Daniel won his first World Championships medal in 2013 at 16 years old and has only gotten stronger. In 2014, he took silver, and then won his first World title in 2015 over German rival Martin Schulz to set up a thrilling showdown at the sport’s Paralympic debut the following year. But it was not meant to be, as Schultz took the tape and gold medal. However, the Canadian went on to win the next three World Championships titles to put him in strong position for redemption in the PTS5 class at Tokyo 2020. Daniel in fact comes from a family of athletes. His father competed in Ironman competitions, his mother ran marathons, and his brother Christian swam for the Canadian Paralympic team.
Kelly Elmlinger (USA)
Former army nurse Elmlinger goes into the Games on the back of wins at the American Championships and World Series competitions from this year. A PTS4 athlete, she will compete in a combined PTS5 class at Tokyo 2020 and her momentum can sure make her a dark horse on the podium. Before taking up the sport after losing a leg to cancer, Elmlinger worked with servicemen and women recovering from amputations and burns.
Hideki Uda (JPN)
Making his Games debut on home soil, Uda is currently ranked fourth in an ultra competitive PTS4 class and is one of the strongest Para triathletes from Asia. Having competed on the World Triathlon scene since 2013, Uda has been working to get over the fourth-place hump for so long; he just missed the podiums at the 2019, 2018 and 2017 World Championships. But it has only made him hungrier. In May, Uda carried the Olympic Torch in Koka City as part of its tour of Japan in the run up to those Games.
Lauren Steadman (GBR)
Former Paralympic swimmer Parker will compete in her fourth Games in Tokyo, and will be looking to upgrade the silver medal she won from the 2016 Paralympics. The double world and six-time European champion’s entry to the sport came after her uncle, a triathlete himself, suggested she give it a try. A strong favourite in the women’s PTS5 event, she also spent her offseason on the British television programme 'Strictly Come Dancing' where she was a semi-finalist.
Alexis Hanquinquant (FRA)
Former basketball player and mixed martial arts fighter, Hanquinquant lost his right leg after a work accident and subsequent surgeries. A natural athlete, the Frenchman found a way to challenge himself by targeting Para triathlon success. Now a double world and European champion from 2017 and 2018, Hanquinquant travels to Tokyo on the back of a series of 2021 World Triathlon Para Cup and Para Series victories. He hopes to capture gold in the men’s PTS4 class on his Paralympic debut.
Susana Rodríguez Gacio (ESP)
After an intense year at the frontline of Spain’s COVID-19 response, hospital rehabilitation specialist Gacio made the decision to return to being a full-time athlete in September 2020. She finished fifth at Rio 2016 but went on from those Games to win back-to-back World titles in 2018 and 2020 and hopes to bring that to a Paralympic title in Tokyo in the women’s PTVI event. After the Games, Rodriguez is looking forward to getting to work with her new guide dog, Yellow, named after the famous Coldplay song.
Jetze Plat (NED)
Unbeaten in the PTWC class since 2016, Plat is arguably the greatest Para triathlete of them all. He has been world champion every year since 2015, won gold in Rio 2016, and also competes in the cycling road race. The Dutchman was born with no ligaments in his left knee and a shorter left upper leg. He is also missing bones from his right leg, the lower part of which was amputated in 2008. But those have not held him back from excelling in sport, in which he picked up triathlon at age 13.