What seemed like an untouchable dream when she was struggling with injuries just three months ago, turned into a reality for an elated Katie Kelly today when she won the gold medal in the women’s PT5 para-triathlon.
Kelly and sighted guide Michellie Jones surged to victory by more than a minute at Fort Copacabana today, winning Australia’s first medal in Para-triathlon’s debut at the Paralympic Games.
Stress fractures in her legs had hampered Kelly’s Rio preparations this year, but that mattered little when she and Jones took the lead on the cycle leg and never looked back.
The Australian duo posted a winning time of 1:12.18 over the 750m swim, 22.28km ride and 5km run, ahead the two Great Britain combinations of Alison Smith and guide Hazel Smith (1:13.20) and Melissa Reid and Nicole Walters (1:14.07).
“I was saying to Michellie that it’s something that you wish for, but these triathlon competitions I never take it for granted and it’s hard work out there. You can’t underestimate how hard it is to get there,” Kelly said.
“So when Michellie said, ‘KK, we’re going to get on that blue carpet (the last metres of the course) – you can enjoy it,’ I thought ‘No, I’m going to get to the finish line first’ (before I start enjoying it).
“I’m just really honoured and chuffed, and to do that in para-triathlon here in Rio is a really special moment.
“When I crossed the finish line I felt relieved. I’ve just been through such an intense training, and to keep the body in shape it takes so much.”
For Kelly’s sighted guide Jones, the Paralympic gold medal gave her a rare career double after she claimed a silver medal in the women’s triathlon at the Sydney 2000 Olympic Games.
Asked how today’s triumph compares with how she felt about her own achievement in at Sydney 2000, Jones was unequivocal.
“Oh, this is better. This is so much better because when I think of everything KK has been through and to be able of doing everything she’s done in such short amount of time, to me this is the best thing that I’ve ever done,” Jones, who turned 47 on September 6, said.
“KK is a legend. This is legendary status. She went out there. A lot of people don’t know we struggled with injuries before the world championships and we came through. KK struggled with injuries up until July. So it’s just amazing what she’s done in such short amount of time.”
In the women’s PT4 event, Kate Doughty finished 5th while 2004 Paralympic cycling medallist Claire McLean finished fourth.