Australia’s highly vaunted Para-triathlon team will take the next step in its promising build-up for the Paris 2024 Paralympics when it competes at the World Triathlon Championship Finals in Pontevedra, Spain this week.
The 12-strong team follows in the tradition of trailblazing world champions including Bill Chaffey and Sally Pilbeam, and 2016 Paralympic Games gold medallist Katie Kelly and guide Michellie Jones.
Headlining the Australian contingent are three-time defending world champion Lauren Parker, emerging star Anu Francis and Pilbeam, the 2014 and 2015 PTS3 champion who has returned to the sport after her classification was included on the Paris 2024 program.
The event is an all-important opportunity to secure qualification points for the Games next year.
“I’ve predominantly been training by myself in England where I’ve been staying with my aunt in Bournemouth, where I spent my summers with my grandparents as a child,” said Francis, who won the PTS2 classification at the Paris Test Event duathlon last month.
“This is the longest I’ve been away from home and it was a big decision to bite the bullet and stay in Europe, but it’s really paid off and I’m moving the best I ever have.
“I’m excited for Pontevedra to race with the full PTS2 field and see where I stack up in the triathlon format, having only learnt to swim less than three years ago, less than a year after teaching myself to cycle during lockdown.
“I’m still so new to the sport and have so much to learn and improve upon. I’m hoping for a fair and honest race for everyone on Saturday so we can showcase what an incredible show the PTS2 women will put on at Paris 2024.”
Tokyo 2020 track and field Paralympian Sam Harding and his experienced guide David Mainwaring will look to continue their rise, while Parker has chalked up a remarkable 13 consecutive wins since being pipped for gold at Tokyo. Parker is aiming for her fourth straight World Triathlon Grand Final title after wins in Lausanne in 2019 and Abu Dhabi in 2021 and 2022.
She has been in Banyoles, Spain under coach Dan Atkins and his AusTriathlon Gold Coast Performance group.
AusTriathlon Paralympic Performance Manager Kyle Burns said Parker had enjoyed a strong preparation.
“Lauren sets the highest of standards and we’d expect nothing less of her,” Burns said. “Lauren is driven and holds her number one ranking dear to her heart.
“She wants to go into Paris next year as the world number one and she knows she’s going to have to fight to keep it.”
Two-time PTWC Paralympian Nic Beveridge arrived from Mackay in Queensland, while PTS4 pair Liam Twomey and Jeremy Peacock and PTS5 duo Jack Howell and David Bryant have been preparing in Girona in Spain under coach Danielle Stefano.
Like Pilbeam, who arrived from Perth, Albury’s Justin Godfrey has reignited his Paralympic dream in the PTS3 classification after the Paris program was extended.
“Right across the board, now is the time where all the top ones start to shine and they propel themselves forward,” Burns said.
“It’s the start of the countdown (to Paris) and what we have seen in the last 12 months is not necessarily what’s going to unfold over the next 12 months, it’s going to be game on.”
The 2023 Para #PontevedraFinals bring the biggest names in #ParaTriathlon to Galicia on Saturday! The stars will bring big-stage form ready to race for points and world titles 🏆!— World Triathlon (@worldtriathlon) September 19, 2023
Watch the full coverage of the action over on https://t.co/YFY80R4UW2 from 9am CEST!#Paris2024 pic.twitter.com/QeD7UUg1I6
Saturday September 23 – 5pm AEST
Nic Beveridge (PTWC)
Glen Jarvis (PTS2)
Thomas Goodman (PTS2)
Justin Godfrey (PTS3)
Jeremy Peacock (PTS4)
Liam Twomey (PTS4)
Jack Howell (PTS5)
David Bryant (PTS5)
Sam Harding (PTVI)
Guide David Mainwaring
Lauren Parker (PTWC)
Anu Francis (PTS2)
Grace Brimelow (PTS2)
Sally Pilbeam (PTS4)
Maggie Sandles (PTVI)
Guide Felicity Cradick
By: AusTriathlon and David Sygall, Paralympics Australia
Posted: 20 September 2023
Image: World Triathlon