The year in review: World Triathlon Para racing

17 December, 2021

The year in review: World Triathlon Para racing

An unusual year ended on a high for para triathlon, with the World Championships able to take place in Abu Dhabi in November and the IPC confirming more medals will be on the schedule for Paris 2024 following the enormous success of the sport at Tokyo 2020. For the athletes, the biggest prizes were on the line once more after the disappointment of 2020, and they stepped up to deliver some scintillating action and prime performances from the moment the season kicked off in Yokohama.

On a great day for the sport in Abu Dhabi, a host of the world’s best para triathletes delivered some magnificent moments, Jetze Plat (NED, PTWC), Susana Rodriguez (ESP, PTVI) and Alexis Hanquinquant (FRA, PTS4) all adding World Titles to their respective Paralympic golds. The USA was the most successful country in the UAE capital, claiming three gold medals out of the 12 available, while France, Spain and UK won two golds each.

The Men’s PTVI class was the first to take the stage and it was quickly clear that the race would be a battle of two greats: Dave Ellis B3 (and guide Luke Pollard) and Hector Catala Navarro B2 (and guide Angel Salamanca). For Ellis, Abu Dhabi was the perfect opportunity to bounce back from Tokyo disappointment, and he went full gas from the beginning, with Paralympic silver medallist Catalá Laparra unable to match the pace. A magnificent run was enough to grant Ellis his third World title, the Spaniard crossing the finish line in second place, followed by American Kyle Coon B1 on World Championship debut.

In the women’s race, current Paralympic and World champion Susana Rodriguez B1 gave no chances to her rivals, a third World title in a row coming at the end of a magnificent run in the Abu Dhabi heat. Italian Anna Barbaro B1 tried to keep up but a penalty for leaving equipment outside the box made things even more complicated for the Tokyo 2020 silver medallist, who just was left to fight for second place, Great Britain’s Alison Peasgood B2 claimed bronze.

If anyone could be considered unbeatable in the para triathlon scene then it’s Netherlands’ Jetze Plat H2. Two-time Paralympic Champion, he has not lost a race since 2015 and it was clear that Abu Dhabi was not going to be any different. The Dutchman was the first out of the water and stayed there the whole race, claiming a 5th World crown ahead of teammate Geert Schipper H2 in second place, while Austrian Florian Brungraber H2 finished just a few seconds behind in third.

For Lauren Parker H1 (AUS), Abu Dhabi was the perfect way to finish the season on a high after the disappointment of missing out on Tokyo gold by less than a second. The young Aussie repeated the title she won in Lausanne 2019, while the upcoming star of the class Jessica Ferreira H1 (BRA) finished in the second place. Spaniard Eva Maria Moral Pedrero H1 crossed the finish line in third.

The season couldn’t have finished better for Frenchman Jules Ribstein, the new PTS2 World Champion, a title that came just a week after winning the Alhandra Para Cup and less than a month after claiming the European title. The Frenchman, winner also in 2019, crossed the finish line almost one minute ahead of Spaniard Lionel Morales, the bronze medal won by an impressive Wim De Paepe (BEL) in the second race of his career.

It was the American Hailey Danz who claimed the world title in the PTS2 female category, in a race that started at the peak of the Abu Dhabi heat. An impressive bike by Britain’s Fran Brown helped earn her the silver medal, while Liisa Lilja (FIN) returned to competition after injury that left her out of the Tokyo Games to capture bronze.

Another impressive bike segment brought gold to Victor Chebotarev of the Russian Federation in the Men’s PTS3 class just ahead of multiple world champion Daniel Molina. Nico Van Der Burgt marked the fastest bike split of the morning, enough to grant him the third spot on the podium.

In the women’s field, it was the clear favourite, Spaniard Andrea Miguelez Ranz, who delivered a flawless performance to grab the world title in the third race of her career, finishing almost five minutes ahead of Elise Marc (FRA) in second, bronze for Evgeniya Koroleva (RTF).

Another flawless race from Alexis Hanquinquant (FRA) saw him add the world title to his Paralympic and European titles in 2021, a strong swim and powerful bike effectively putting him out of reach by the time he was out onto the 5km run. The real competition was for who would join Hanquinquant on the podium, and it was Japan’s Hideki Uda who was able to win silver ahead of Alejandro Sanchez Palomero (ESP), in a carbon-copy of the Tokyo 2020 medal positions.

Kelly Elmlinger (USA) became the 2021 World Champion in the women’s PTS4, finishing over three minutes ahead of Spaniard Marta Frances Gomez, bronze going to Elke Van Engelen (GER).

A strong sprint finish granted USA’s Chris Hammer an unexpected medal at the Men’s PTS5 class, after an impressive run almost 40 seconds faster than his closest rival and enough to outpace the two-time Paralympic champion Martin Shulz (GER) who couldn’t hit the podium, second going to Aleksandr Konyshev (RTF), while Brazil’s Ronan Cordeiro, another member of the new generation of para triathletes, finished with the bronze.

In the women’s field, it was Great Britain’s Claire Cashmore who claimed the world title after beating Grace Norman (USA) down the last kilometre of the run. The two great rivals were accompanied on the podium by Alisa Kolpakchy (UKR) in third place.

There were four gold medals for the USA as the World Triathlon Para Series returned to the blue carpet in style in Japan. France and Netherlands both topped the podium twice, Spain, Australia and Great Britain a gold apiece on a superb morning of racing as the Paralympic Qualification period got underway in May.

In the women’s PTWC race there was little to call between Kendall Gretsch (USA) and Mona Francis (FRA) coming out of the 750m swim in front. Brazil’s Jessica Ferreira did her best to close the gap on the handbike as Francis dropped back, but there would be no catching Gretsch once she was out of T2, 20 seconds the final winning margin over silver medallist Ferreira, Eva Moral (ESP) picking up the bronze.

For the men, it was a familiar one-two for the Netherlands as Jetze Plat won the gold ahead of Geert Schipper. Plat looked at ease in his second WTPS Yokohama race and the 2018 winner wouldn’t be caught by Schipper - himself victorious in 2019 - while Ahmed Andaloussi (FRA) held off the challenge of compatriot Alexandre Paviza to secure his place on the podium.

A battle raged in the men’s visually impaired race with nothing between USA’s Kyle Coon and Spaniard Jose Luis Garcia Serrano for the majority of the race. It was only on the closing stages of the run that the American was able to pull away, taking the tape and a first ever series gold by just nine seconds from Garcia, Thibaut Rigaudeau of France winning the bronze.

Australia’s Katie Kelly had a more comfortable margin of victory in the women’s PTVI race, her first win at the top level since taking the 2017 world championship title in Rotterdam. She proved untouchable across all three disciplines to win the gold ahead of Vita Oleksiuk, and it was bronze for Japan, Atsuko Maruo coming home third.

It was victory in the men’s PTS2 category for Spain’s Lionel Morales thanks in part to a brilliant swim. Netherlands’ Maurits Morsink had significant ground to make up after exiting the water nearly seven minutes back, but that he did, a superb bike getting him back into podium contention before a 17m56s 5km saw him take a fine silver, Adam Popp (USA) with bronze.

Melissa Stockwell (USA) was always in control of the women’s PTS2 from the moment she left T1 with 90 seconds over Yukako Hata (JPN). Two minutes faster over the bike and four over the run ensured gold for the American, Hata with silver and Veronika Gabitova (RUS) bronze.

Only the men lined up in the PTS3 category, and it was a second WTCS Yokohama gold for Nico Van Der Burgt (NED) with Victor Chebotarev (RUS) earning the silver ahead of teammate Alexey Petukhov, the youngster making a spirited series debut.

Alexis Hanquinquant was in superb form once again in the men’s PTS4 race after a brilliant battle with another of the new generation of para triathlete talents, Britain’s Michael Taylor. It was only as the French world champion emerged out of T2 that he was able to put some daylight between himself and Taylor, a 5km run of 16m25s proving decisive as he collected another gold. It was silver for Taylor, an excellent run seeing Hideki Uda of Japan edging a tight finish for the bronze.

Another American gold in the women’s PTS4 as Kelly Elmlinger powered to victory just as she did back in 2019 and four minutes quicker than two years ago. Japan’s recently crowned Asia Triathlon Champion Mami Tani took silver, Elke Van Engelen (GER) the bronze.

George Peasgood (GBR) could not be caught in the men’s PTS5 after a brilliant swim along with Portugal’s Filipe Marques. Peasgood then pulled away over the bike, before Rio 2016 Paralympic Champion Martin Schulz (GER) closed in over the 5km. Schulz ran out of road, though, leaving a delighted Peasgood to take the tape, Brazil’s Ronan Cordeiro with bronze from Marques.

France’s Gwladys Lemoussu followed her Funchal World Cup win at the end of 2019 with another good display in Yokohama, proving too strong for Alisa Kolpakchy. The Ukrainian was delighted with a hard-won silver, Anna Bychkova (RUS) edging the bronze from Petra Levay.

On a glorious June Saturday in Roundhay Park, Leeds, the inaugural AJ Bell World Triathlon Para Championships Leeds delivered some superb performances as the Tokyo 2020 Paralympic Qualification period continued.

The men’s PTVI category got the day’s racing underway, and it was Great Britain’s Dave Ellis who set the pace from the first strokes of the swim, Hector Catala Laparra unable to reign him in but narrowly taking the silver ahead of Thibaut Rigaudeau.

There was a familiar face on top of the women’s PTVI podium after Spain’s Susana Rodriguez once again put together a commanding performance to secure yet another Series gold, Anna Barbaro (ITA) and Alison Peasgood (GBR) completing the podium.

The men’s PTWC wheelchair race saw Netherlands’ Jetze Plat extend his winning streak as he continued to look untouchable in his pursuit of the world title and Paralympic double in 2021, Geert Schipper (NED) and Florian Brungraber H2 with silver and bronze respectively.

Kendall Gretsch clearly enjoyed herself in the women’s PTWC, Eva Maria Moral Pedrero (ESP) with silver and Mona Francis (FRA) the bronze. “I really loved this course, it was a challenging bike and technical run and it’s been good to be able to race ahead of the Games,” said Gretsch. “I’m just happy to keep moving forward and have some more racing before Tokyo.”

Jules Ribstein (FRA) was in dominant mood on route to the men’s PTS2 title, finishing 100 seconds ahead of Netherlands’ Maurits Morsink (NED) in second,  Adam Popp (USA) winning bronze. USA’s Hailey Danz managed to edge the Italian Veronica Yoko Plebani to the women’s gold, another experienced American, Melissa Stockwell, putting in the fastest 5km run time of 22:58 to earn bronze.

Nico Van Der Burgt won the men’s PTS3, while Alexis Hanquinquant’s rapid 15m42s time over the 5km run saw him fly to the men’s PTS4 gold by more than five minutes from Britain’s Michael Taylor, Eric Mcelvenny of USA with the bronze. Kelly Elmlinger (USA) earned the women’s gold in 1.17:37.

Another American, Chris Hammer, had a vintage performance to win the PTS5, his first race since bronze in Lausanne in 2019. A 14:55 run was to be the difference after an epic battle with Frenchman Yannick Bourseux in Roundhay Park, Jairo Ruiz Lopez (ESP) winning the bronze.

Lauren Steadman made the most of a rare home race opportunity to banish any fears of being race rusty heading into a big few months, stretching to gold away from teammate Claire Cashmore, who was locked in an incredible battle with USA’s Grace Norman, passing the American for a final and decisive time as they hit the blue carpet to take the silver.

The four Para Cups held in 2021 could be split into two distinct groups: June’s Tokyo 2020 Qualification races and October’s post-Games races. For the former, Besançon in France and A Coruna, Spain were the focus for some intense racing where the prizes were more than just medals – those precious final points towards a place on the Tokyo 2020 Paralympic start lines were also up for grabs.

And it was the French who left Besançon with a remarkable 11 medals in their tally, including yet another gold for the untouchable Alexis Hanquinquant. Austrian Florian Brungraber continued his strong form to with the men’s PTWC race, Italian Rita Cuccuru helping book her place in Tokyo in the women’s.

In A Coruna, the home favourite Susana Rodriguez completed her preparations for further Paralympic greatness with the PTVI women’s gold, Jessica Ferreira of Brazil and Louis Noel (FRA) winning the PTWC events, while Lauren Steadman (GBR) ensured she headed to Japan assured of her own golden form in the PTS5 category.

If the post-Games start lists were missing some of the sport’s freshly minted Paralympic stars, there was certainly no shortage of excitement and action in the beautiful Turkish town of Alanya as Ireland’s Donnacha McCarthy won the men’s PVI gold and Hungarian Bence Mocsari and Ukraine’s Alisa Kolpakchy the PTS5 titles.

The start lists were packed with fresh talent in Alhandra, too, as Zachary Stinson (USA) won on his Cup debut, the legendary Jules Ribstein underlined his brilliance in the PTS2 race and Spain’s newly crowned Paralympic Champion Susana Rodriguez cruised to a superb gold once again in the visually impaired race.


paratriathlon paratriathlon world championships

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