The world of paratriathlon has been more exciting than ever, with just under a year to go until the sport makes its debut in the 2016 Rio de Janeiro Paralympic Games. Competition has been high and some elites have shown this year that they will be the names to look out for as the countdown continues to next summer, in which men’s PT1,2,4 and women’s PT2,4,5 will show the planet what the sport is made of.
The men’s race is set to be a thrilling battle between two World Champions. After being forced to miss out of the Grand Final race in Edmonton last year due to injury, four-time World Champion Bill Chaffey (AUS) returns to Chicago in the hopes of reclaiming his title. He has earned three gold medals in the World Paratriathlon Event (WPE) season, including his swift victory at the Rio Test Event in August, making him the heavy favourite to win. But the 2014 World Champion, Krige Schabort (USA) also will toe the line, and he will not want to give his title up, especially since his win in Edmonton last year also won him the 2015 ESPY award for Best Male Athlete with a Disability. Schabort took the silver medal, to Chaffey’s gold in Rio, but with so much at stake, Chicago could go either way. Another name worth noting in the division is Jetze Plat (NED). While he doesn’t have a title to back him up, he has seized two golds this year in Madrid and also at the 2015 ETU European Championships in Geneva.
In the women’s PT1 division, Kendall Gretsch (USA) is the unstoppable force that has everything to lose. She has yet to lose a race she has contended in, which includes the Grand Final in Edmonton last year. But Australian Emily Tapp is also a powerhouse when it comes to victories. As a newcomer to the circuit, she has secured gold in every race except when she took silver to Gretsch’s gold in a head-to-head battle at the Detroit WPE race. It will be a sure bet that Tapp will be looking to right that wrong in Chicago.
USA will headline the women’s PT2 sport class with three leading ladies—Melissa Stockwell, Hailey Danisewicz and Allysa Seely. Stockwell is a multiple-time World Champion and is easily the favourite. But both Seely and Danisewicz have been making strides this season. Seely just recently won gold in Edmonton and has been on the podium in every race contended in this season. Danisewicz turned heads when she won the Rio Test Event, along with many other races this year. All three women have been dominating the division and will most definitely be each other’s biggest threats.
The men’s field will be nothing short of exciting as all of the big names have returned and will line up against each other. The No. 1 ranked Vasily Egorov (RUS) tops the start list, and after claiming victory at the Grand Final last year, he will stop at nothing to earn the title for a second year. Silver medallist Michele Ferratin (ITA) will put up a good fight after earning some podiums in the WPE season, including a gold in London.
Australian Sally Pilbeam won in Edmonton last year and finished the season undefeated. Upon entering Chicago, she has one silver medal against her from the Sunshine Coast WPE race, but rest assured she will be fighting to retake her claims on the top of the podium for the women’s PT3 sport class. But in order to do so, she will have to get past Nora Hansel (GER), who does currently hold onto a perfect record, including her last victory at the Geneva ETU World Championships. In the men’s race, with the exclusion of 2014’s Champion Lionel Hiffler (FRA) off the start list, grabs for the gold medal is wide open. Oliver Dreier (AUT) had an impressive win in Iseo-Franciacorta, but Spaniard Daniel Molina also picked up a Madrid victory, so the crown will go to whoever can prove more successful when it comes to race day.
The men’s PT4 sport class is setting up to be an epic battle between the best of the best from each corner of the globe. The top three ranked men all will line up side-by-side in Chicago, with only one able to call themselves the top at the end of it. No. 1 ranked Martin Schulz (GER) returns as the reigning World Champion and also had a successful bidding at the Rio Test Event when he claimed the gold medal. But young Stefan Daniel (CAN) has been making headlines this season. Taking the silver just behind Schulz in Rio, all bets can go against him trying to change that fate. But USA’s Chris Hammer shouldn’t be counted out, as the current third ranked athlete, he took gold in Detroit and could swiftly make a huge impact on the field. And if the men’s PT4 field could not be any more jam-packed with raw talent, Yannick Bourseaux (FRA) is also in the running. He has his eyes set on Rio in the hopes of competing in the Paralympics as a summer-time athlete. He competed in the biathlon and nordic-skiing in the Winter Paralympics in Torino 2006 and Vancouver 2010.
In contention for the women’s title is Lauren Steadman (GBR), who has been undefeated since March 2014 and won the World Championship title last year. That could change however if Australia’s Kate Doughty has anything to say about it, as she has held onto an impressive series of podiums this season. Faye Mcclelland (GBR) is also a top contender is the sport class, she took home the bronze medal in the Rio Test Event in August and has scored multiple world titles to her name.
Compatriots Alison Patrick and Melissa Reid will be battling to prove that Great Britain is the nation to beat for the women’s PT5 sport class. While Patrick is the more decorated athlete, having won five consecutive gold medals since 2014, Reid is also no stranger to the podium. Patricia Walsh (USA) is the one to watch of taking the crown away from the Brits. She is a three-time National Champion and claimed gold in Detroit in August. But on the rise this year has been Australian Katie Kelly. She has had a perfect season so far, winning four consecutive gold medals. Her success has also been able to be shared by her guide, Olympic Silver Medallist, Michellie Jones. Jones will have two events to attend in the week as she is an inductee into the 2015 ITU Hall of Fame.
On the men’s side, Aaron Scheidies (USA), who has only lost one race in his nine years of racing, will start as the favourite.
Paratriathlon will be contested on Friday following the women’s U23 World Championship race and the elite women’s Grand Final at 5:00pm, with the athletes being sent off in waves. A live finish cam will be available for paratriathlon, as well as a highlights video later that day. Follow @triathlonlive on twitter for live updates.