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Saturday, July 24, 2021

Paratriathlon breaks athletes’ COVID drought

Local athlete Lauren Parker will enter this weekend’s third City of Newcastle Paratriathlon as the hot favourite in her classification.

The current world champion in the PTW1 category, who has already qualified for the 2021 Tokyo Paralympics, is expected to use the race – on Saturday 20 February – as a valuable warm-up to the Games in July.

And, with international travel not viable for Oceania sportsmen and women, this will be an Aussie-only affair this year.

However, all the best Australian-based contenders for Tokyo, including Parker, are looking forward to their first hit-out in 12 months.

The paratriathlon will be staged from 7am, with the athletes participating in a 750m swim, 20km cycle or hand cycle and 5km run or racing wheelchair.

“There are four main classifications: wheelchair, amputee, vision-impaired and neurological impairment,” event director Paul Humphreys said.

“Athletes would normally gain substantial points towards the World Cup but the International Triathlon Union (ITU) has recently halted any allocations until an even playing field is available in terms of [overseas] travel.

“While the field is not large, the event requires closed roads to protect the competitors, some of which are in hand cycles and racing wheelchairs.

“The closures will take place around the foreshore of Newcastle, east of Watt Street including thoroughfares around Wharf Road, Nobbys Beach, Fort Drive, Nobbys Road and Shortland Esplanade to Zaara Street until 9am.

“We thank the local community, in advance, for their patience during this time.”

The course features a harbour swim from near Customs House Jetty, cycling along harbour/beach roads between Watt Street and Zarra Street, including the scenic Fort Drive, and a run leg lining up along the harbour and Horseshoe Beach.

Being a specialised event, too, it is not usually viable to stage it as a standalone race.

But, due to the generosity of the City of Newcastle and organisers H Events, with the assistance of the local triathlon community, Newcastle can once again host the region’s third international-standard paratriathlon.

“City of Newcastle is proud to support the paratriathlon, welcoming visitors to our harbour city which provides a spectacular backdrop for this elite level competition,” Lord Mayor Nuatali Nelmes said.

“This event acknowledges the incredible efforts of these athletes.

“It also enables us to continue to work towards becoming a truly inclusive and accessible city, which values an active lifestyle.”

The sport of paratriathlon, according to Mr Humphreys, has taken off internationally since its inclusion in the Rio Olympics and recent Gold Coast Commonwealth Games, where Parker won a bronze medal, just 12 months after her horrific accident.

The event will be followed by an Aquathlon (750m swim and 5km run), which is a qualification fixture for the World Championships in Almere, Holland, in September.

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