"My main focus for this season was to come off of a strong Nordic skiing season, transition back to triathlon training, and prove that I can be a top competitor in triathlon"
The USA’s Kendall Gretsch will try to transfer her PyeongChang 2018 to Tokyo 2020 Paralympic success beginning Saturday at the Magog Para Triathlon World Cup in Canada.
The 27-year-old – who is a three-time Para triathlon world champion – won gold in both the women’s sitting biathlon sprint and cross-country 12km at last year’s Paralympic Winter Games.
After transitioning back to triathlon, Gretsch is now targeting a place at Tokyo 2020.
“I’m really excited to start Paralympic qualification,” Gretsch said. “Magog will be my first race during the qualification period, so it will be an important step towards qualifying for the Games.
“Triathlon is obviously a bit different with Tokyo coming up next year. My main focus for this season was to come off of a strong Nordic skiing season, transition back to triathlon training, and prove that I can be a top competitor in triathlon.”
Gretsch had a successful winter season, winning six medals at the World Para Nordic Skiing Championships in February. That included individual biathlon gold, before returning to full-time triathlon training in March.
“I didn’t bike or run at all during the winter, but I swam a couple times per week when we weren’t traveling for competitions,” Gretsch said. “After not doing any triathlon training the previous winter, I learned it was important to at least keep swimming to make the transition back easier.”
Gretsch has never finished lower than second in international triathlon, securing 11 wins in 13 events. Those include a World Cup win in June and second place at the Yokohama World Series in May. But it is harder than it seems.
“A lot of the newer PTWC women have backgrounds in another sport, so they are setting the standard for each component of the race,” she said.
“It’s helped me change my expectation of what’s possible. I think it’s great because everyone is looking for ways they can be a few seconds faster in their swim, bike, run, and transitions.”
Best of the rest
France’s Mona Francis is likely to be Gretsch’s nearest challenger, while Germany’s Christiane Reppe is another to competition as the Paralympic cycling champion continues her triathlon transition.
The men’s equivalent looks set to be equally competitive with Italy’s Giovanni Achenza starting as the highest ranked triathlete.
The women’s PTS2 will see US Rio 2016 bronze medallist Melissa Stockwell begin her Paralympic qualification for Tokyo 2020; in a race which also features Italian canoer Veronica Yoko Plebani.
Thirteen triathletes will battle for the men’s PTS4 title, including Austria’s Oliver Dreier and Asian champion Jiachao Wang of China.
Keiichi Sato, another recently crowned Asian champion, will feature in the men’s PTS5 event.
Home hopes will be high in the men’s and women’s PTVI events, with the Canadian pair of Jon Dunkerley and Jessica Tuomela aiming to repeat their home triumphs from 12 months ago.