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Paratriathletes line up to shine at Gold Coast World Championships

Paratriathletes line up to shine at Gold Coast World Championships

Australia’s paratriathletes have led the world in recent years and they aim to continue their exceptional performances at a home ITU World Triathlon Championships Grand Final on the Gold Coast this week.

The Championships will attract over 5000 Age Group, Elite and Paratriathletes at the biggest international four-day triathlon festival in Australia’s rich history, with the Paratriathletes in action on Saturday, September 15.

It is the third time the Championships have returned to the Gold Coast hosting the Championships in 1991 and 2009.

Australia will field an 11-strong paratriathlon team – from five-time World Champion, local hero Bill Chaffey (PTWC) and defending World Champions Emily Tapp (PTWC) and Katie Kelly (PTV1) to World Championship debutants, Lauren Parker (PTWC) from Newcastle and Clint Pickin (PTS4) from Colac in Victoria.

Chaffey will be returning to the scene of his first world title after a decade of dominance in his class.

Chaffey has set the standard and the new generation of wheelchair athletes including defending World Champion Jetze Plat (NED) and Commonwealth Champion Joe Townsend (GBR) all acknowledge that Chaffey’s incredible performances drove them to work harder and become better athletes.

“Obviously racing on the Gold Coast is special, I won my first World Championship here in 2009 and I can’t wait to race here again in 2018 after 10 years of racing internationally for Australia,” said Chaffey.

Parker, bronze medallist in the PTWC class at the April Commonwealth Games and a former Kona Ironman age group silver medallist is combining the bumpy journey to recovery after a freak training accident in April 2017 left her with spinal cord injuries and a very different life, with a journey to the top in Paratriathlon.

Pickin, who had his right leg amputated after a 2014 dairy farm accident, will line up determined to match it with the world’s best in his first year of international racing.

Chiming into the country connection is one of Australia’s most successful all-round paratriathletes, Albury’s Justin Godfrey (PTS3), who along with one of the sport’s real pioneers, Sally Pilbeam (PTS4) will be returning in 2018 determined to turn last year’s silvers in Rotterdam to Gold Coast gold.

Pilbeam has been one of the most dominant female athletes in the sport since her first World Championships in 2013 with Victoria’s former World Championship bronze medallist Kerryn Harvey (PTS4), never far away.

World Champion in 2014 and 2015, with silvers in 2016 and 2017, Pilbeam lives excellence despite the challenges the sport has thrown at her.  

The International Paralympic Committee restricts the number of medal events at Paralympic Games, two classes were not able to race in Rio, and again two classes cannot compete in Tokyo 2020. This was devastating news recently for Sally and Justin,  whose classes were not included, but they have not let it distract them from their goals to continue in the sport. 

“Sally and Justin are committed to executing the very best race they can on the Gold Coast and will put themselves in contention for the podium yet again," said Kathryn Periac.

“It is always a privilege to be selected to compete at a Word Championships, and to have the opportunity to compete on home soil makes it just that little bit more memorable and special,” says Godfrey.

“Having family, friends and just the Australian crowd makes for a special kind of race and my season so far has gone exactly to plan. I set myself goals at the start of the year to win a World Series overseas and to get two world titles and I am achieving all of them.”

Vision impaired Jonathan Goerlach’s highest World Championship finish to date is fifth in Auckland in 2012.  

Paratriathlon has exploded since then with rapidly rising performances and ever increasing numbers of competitors since the 2016 Paralympic Games included the first Paratriathlon races.  

The vision impaired men missed the opportunity to race in Rio but with the recent confirmation that it will be on the program for Tokyo 2020, Jonathan’s years of commitment to improving are now providing him with the opportunity to shine.  

At the last World Paratriathlon Series for 2018, Edmonton in July, Jonathan and his new guide Sam Douglas made a big breakthrough to win, defeating several athletes they had never before beaten.  

With a move in August to join Olympian and now coach Brendan Sexton in Triathlon Australia’s International Performance Centre, led by Jamie Turner, in Wollongong, Jonathan is putting everything in place to give himself the best chance to continue to move towards his goal of the top podium in Tokyo.  

Josh Kassulke (PTS5) narrowly missed achieving a high enough ranking to qualify for Rio and he too is determined to make sure that he is there in 2020.

Triathlon Australia’s National Manager, Paratriathlon, Kathryn Periac says a World Championships at home on the Gold Coast provides the opportunity for the best Australian paratriathletes to race against the world’s best in front of their families and friends.  

“As an older group of athletes than their elite able-bodied team mates some will even be cheered on by their children,” said Periac.

“Race day focus for each of the team though will be executing their race plan, underpinned by a commitment to success in every training session and every decision they have made on their own triathlon journeys. 

“Five of the eleven team members participated in triathlon prior to life-changing circumstances which made them suddenly eligible for paratriathlon.  

“Of the other six most have had only a couple of years in the sport.

“I am confident the Australian Paratriathlon Team will again be one of the most successful in total medals won.  

“I am confident too that each individual athlete will be successful in achieving their own progressions in their own triathlon and life journeys.”

Missing from this year’s team will be PTS2 category’s Brant Garvey who was selected and has since withdrawn due to the announcement that his class, PTS2, will not be in Tokyo. Commonwealth Games silver medallist Nic Beveridge was not available for selection due to surgery and Rio Paralympian Kate Doughty who was unavailable after giving birth to baby Henrik in July.

Australian Paratriathlon Team, 2018 ITU World Triathlon Championships, Gold Coast, September 13-16:
PTS3: Justin Godfrey (VIC) – Coach: Fab Andreoni
PTS4: Kerryn Harvey (VIC) – Coach: Fab Andreoni; Clint Pickin (VIC) – Coach: Stephanderbruggen, Sally Pilbeam (WA) – Coach: Steve Gleeson
PTS5: Josh Kassulke (QLD) – Coach Warwick Dalziel
PTVI: Jonathan Goerlach (VIC/NSW) – Guide Sam Douglas, Coach Luke Whitmore & Brendon Sexton; Gerrard Gosens (QLD) – Guide Stephen Thompson, Coach: Mark Turner; Katie Kelly (QLD) – Guide Holly Grice, Coach Dan Atkins
PTWC: Bill Chaffey (QLD) – Handler Darren Tattersall; Lauren Parker (NSW) – Coach: Dan Atkins, Handler Dave Robertson; Emily Tapp (ACT) – Coach: Megan Hall, Handler: Fab Andreoni