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2011-08-26Updated on August, 26th, 2011, 14:09
A success since its participation in the Olympic programme in Sydney 2000, Triathlon will be one of the sports inaugurating in the Paralympic programme for the first time in Rio 2016 Games™. With some adaptations from the original sport, Paratriathlon was chosen by the IPC (International Olympic Committee) Executive Committee, last December, along with Paracanoeing, in a competition that has involved seven candidate sports.
Paratriathlon took less than two decades to settle as a sport. It has gathered athletes from the three categories (cycling, swimming and street running) and, today, it is practiced in more than 60 countries. In 2016, it will be disputed in the same scenarium of Triathlon: the legendary Copacabana Beach.
“There couldn’t be a better scenario and country than Brazil for Paratriathlon’s debut. Copacabana is the perfect place for the competition. Additionally, the sport had a huge development in the country and it perfectly matches with the young spirit we expect to see in the Rio 2016 Games™. IPC’s Executive Committee has chosen sports with great appeal to young people that are growing in the world”, tells the Brazilian Paralympic Committee President and member of IPC’s Executive Committee, Andrew Parsons.
A sport for everyone
In Paratriathlon, athletes compete in smaller distances than the Olympic ones: 750m Swimming, 20km Cycling and 5km running. Since the end of 1990, world championships were disputed in parallel with the Triathlon world championships, organised by ITU (International Triathlon Union). In 2006, the model for the inclusion in the Paralympic Games to be presented to IPC started to be prepared.
“ITU has assembled a Committee, which has gathered many rules of the sports and formatted Paratriathlon as it is today. We had a process that has passed for many stages till it gets to the victory in December 2010. For 2016, the expectation is big, it is the best possible. We will work to have a safe course, a fair one, and it will certainly be a very intense competition, as we already see in international competitions nowadays”, reports Roberto Menescal, superintendent of the Brazilian Triathlon Confederation, former member of the ITU Committee.
Currently, there are six categories, defined by the functional classification of each athlete. In TRI 1, athletes use handcycle. They are paraplegic, quadriplegic, polio, double leg amputee athletes. TRI 2 is for athletes with severe leg impairment including above knee amputees. They use prosthesis to run and ride bicycles. In TRI 3, Les Autres (the others, in French) compete: includes athletes with Multiple Sclerosis, Muscular Dystrophy, Cerebral Palsy, double leg amputee runners or paralysis in multiple limbs.
TRI 4 is the category of athlete with arm impairment -- paralysis, above and below-elbow amputees. Athlete may use prosthesis, brace or sling on the bike and/or run. In TRI 5, athletes with moderate leg impairment including below-knee amputees ride bicycle and run with prosthesis. Eventually, TRI 6 is the category of athletes with visual impairment or legally blind: they count on a handler and have to use a blindfold, they are warned with tapper in Swimming course and ride tandem bicycles (with two seats), always with athletes of the same sex.
A dream come true
The inclusion of Paratriatlon in the Games is and old dream for many. Few, however, have the trajectory so marked by the sport and by the determination of making it a Paralympic sport as the Brazilian Rivaldo Martins. Triathlete before losing the left leg in a car accident, he has competed in three editions of the Paralympic Games, in Cycling and Swimming.
He was three times champion of Ironman for athletes with disabilities. He has won four world championships. Today, at 50 years old, two years after his retirement, he is the coach of the Brazilian delegation that will participate in the Paratriathlon World Championship in Beijing, China, next September.
“We, that have followed and practiced the sport for so long, clearly notice the evolution. The number of athletes who practice the sport increases in an accelerated pace. For Rio 2016™, we will have to have qualifying. Since 1997, the International Federation promotes Paratriathlon world championships together with Triathlon. In other words, men’s, women’s, junior Triathlon and Paratriathlon, four competitions, are disputed in the same weekend, two on Saturday, two on Sunday. National and international rankings start to be developed. The news of the inclusion in the Paralympic Games, which was highly expected, comes in a moment in which I am not competing anymore, but I will be participating somehow, for sure. This sport is my life and it will never stop being”, Rivaldo celebrates. With Paratriathlon and Paracanoeing, the Paralympic Games now have 22 sports in which medals are awarded.