In women's paratriathlon debut at the Paralympics, Grace Norman of the U.S. in PT4, Allysa Seely of the U.S. in PT2, and Katie Kelly of Australia in PT5 won the first women’s Paralympic paratriathlon gold medals.
On this day, U.S. women won four of the 9 total medals awarded in paratriathlon including a 1-2-3 finish in the PT2 category for severely impaired competitors. Notably, Katie Kelly of Australia, guided by 2-time ITU World Champion and 2006 Ironman World Champion Michellie Jones, won the gold in the PT5 category for visually impaired competitors.
PT2 – severely impaired
Allysa Seely, Hailey Danisewicz and Melissa Stockwell of the U.S. swept the podium in the first Paralympic PT2 paratriathlon. All three women took turns leading, but at the end Seely grabbed gold and Danisewicz the silver, and then the first two women cheered Stockwell at the finish line.
“I knew that I had a really strong swim and I wanted to get as much out in front as I could and get as much time as I could between me and my competitors,” Seely told ITU Media. “Coming off the bike I knew I had a lot of work to do. I am a runner at heart and that is my soul, so I really just gave it everything I had and I am just really excited with how everything turned out.”
Stockwell led the swim and took a 28 seconds margin over Japan’s Yukako Hata and Finland’s Liisa Lilja. But Seely used a swift transition to join Stockwell at the front on the first lap of the bike segment. At that point, Danisewicz, who had a 1:22 deficit after the swim, joined her U.S. teammates and forged ahead on her way to a race-best 40:13 bike split that gave her a minute-plus lead at T2.
After one 2.5km lap of the 5km run, Seely, who will compete at athletics later on in the Paralympics, reduced her deficit to 18 seconds behind Danisewicz. In the final lap, on her way to a by-far race-best 24:13 run, Seely passed Danisewicz and finished in 1:22:55 with a 48 seconds margin of victory over Danisewicz (26:37 run) and 2:29 on Stockwell (26:39 run).
“To be able to be on the podium with two of my greatest friends, two USA teammates, two training partners, this is one of the greatest moments of my life,” Stockwell told ITU Media. “I am absolutely thrilled. Today is also the 15th anniversary of September 11th. Every year it is a meaningful day for me because I lost my leg in Iraq, so to be here representing the USA with the USA uniform on and competing in the world’s biggest athletic stage and when it got really tough out there I thought of those who gave the ultimate sacrifice and never made it back and it motivated me to the finish.”
PT4 – mild impairment
Grace Norman of the U.S. swam a race-best 10:42 split which gave her a 30 seconds lead on top rival Lauren Steadman of Great Britain, a two-time Paralympic swimmer, who lost a great deal of time when she missed the first swim buoy and had to swim 25 meters back to round in the proper direction.
Steadman charged hard on the bike course and passed Norman after one lap. Knowing Norman was a world record holding runner, Steadman redlined the rest of the way to create a gap but only managed a 5 seconds advantage at T2. Steadman added 13 seconds to her lead with a swifter transition.
On the run, Norman posted a race-best 20:15 split that was 1:27 better than Steadman. Norman finished in 1:10:39 with a 1:04 margin of victory over silver medalist Steadman and 3:52 over bronze medalist Gwladys Lemoussu of France.
"It’s been a long journey, a lot of training, a lot of everything,” Norman told USA Triathlon media. “So to come across that line in first for the U.S., to make first in the history of paratriathlon, is just an incredible feeling. Last year here at the test event, [Steadman] beat me out of the water by around a minute, and so I’ve been working extremely hard on my swim. So to move up and see improvements like that here have just been a reward.”
Steadman said she was proud of her silver medal: “I knew that it would be the swim where I could do some damage, but I just missed the orange buoy, so I had to go back and I got right back in there. The whole swim I could see Grace, but the tide would not allow me to get there. I killed myself in the swim just to catch up and then I tried really hard on the bike and it just took my legs on the run.”
PT5 - Visually impaired, led by a guide
Halfway through the 20km bike leg, Australian Katie Kelly and guide Michellie Jones caught a leading pack of five competitors. On the third 5km lap, Kelley surged ahead of the pack and finished the cycling leg with a 10 seconds lead on Melissa Reid of Great Britain and 30 seconds on Reid’s countrywoman Alison Patrick.
After a race-best 20:37 run that was 30 and 41 seconds better than her chasers, Kelly finished in 1:12:18 with a 1:02 margin of victory over silver medalist Alison Patrick and 1:49 on bronze medalist Melissa Reid.
“I thought I couldn’t (slow down in the finish chute),” Kelly told ITU media. "I didn’t know what lead we had. I just do it for the kids in Australia living with a disability. I never imagined that I’d win gold and it’s an honor to do it. Anyone with a disability can take a crack at something and do what they love, and that’s what I was doing out there.”
“Katie was unbelievable out there,” said her guide, 2000 Olympic silver medalist Michellie Jones. “When I asked her to go harder, she went harder. Most athletes wouldn’t have done it and that’s just testament to who she is. She’s so determined. I love her to death. Coming down the finish chute she wanted to keep sprinting and I had to tell her to enjoy the moment.”
Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
September 11, 2016
S 750m / B 20k / R 5k
Women’s PT2 – severe impairment
1. Allysa Seely (USA) 1:22:55
2. Hailey Danisewicz (USA) 1:23:43
3. Melissa Stockwell (USA) 1:25:24
4. Lisa Lilja (FIN) 1:26:01
5. Elise Marc (FRA) 1:28:27
Women’s PT4 – mild impairment
1. Grace Norman (USA) 1:10:39
2. Lauren Steadman (GBR) 1:11:43
3. Gwladys Lemoussu (FRA) 1:14:31
4. Faye Mcclelland (GBR) 1:15:08
5. Kate Doughty (AUS) 1:15:50
10. Patricia Collins (USA) 1:21:08
Women’s PT5 – Visual impairment with guide
1. Katie Kelly (AUS) 1:12:18
Guide: Michellie Jones (AUS)
2. Alison Patrick (GBR) 1:13:20
Guide: Hazel Smith (GBR)
3. Melissa Reid (GBR) 1:14:07
Guide: Nicole Waters (GBR)
4. Elizabeth Baker (USA) 1:14:34
Guide: Jillian Petersen (USA)
5. Susana Rodriguez (ESP) 1:15:29
Guide: Maria Isabel Gallardo Garcia (ESP)
7. Patricia Walsh B1 (USA) 1:17:55
Jessica Jones Meyers (USA)