With the current circumstances providing an opportunity to reflect on her impressive paratriathlon career, Pilbeam said that the decision to step back from the sport now “feels right”.
“The forced break in competition and training allowed me to spend more time with my family and I guess reassess where I was at and where I wanted to go,” Pilbeam said.
“I really enjoyed this time, and there is a great deal of uncertainty of what lies ahead in racing. I feel like now is the right time.”
After getting involved in paratriathlon in 2013, Pilbeam quickly rose through the ranks, debuting for Australia at the 2013 ITU World Triathlon Grand Final London with an eighth-place finish. Only 12 months later, Pilbeam would claim her first World Championship title in Edmonton, before successfully defending her title in Chicago in 2015.
She went on to collect a 2015 Duathlon World Championship title, three World Championship silver medals, three ITU World Paratriathlon Series wins, two ITU Paratriathlon World Cup wins and six Oceania Championship titles over her seven-year paratriathlon career, leaving little doubt that Pilbeam has had a major impact in paratriathlon.
In 2018, Pilbeam took her success off the field, becoming an active member of the ITU Athletes Committee where she works alongside her fellow committee members, including Australian teammate Jonathan Goerlach providing input and suggestions to improve the sport and events on an international level.
“To be honest I never intended to become a paratriathlete,” Pilbeam said.
“I remember arriving at the first National Championships in Penrith in 2013 and feeling so out of my depth. But I just kept setting short term goals and improving each time. I never thought it would end up like it did.”
“I look back and I’m so pleased that I pushed through, despite the many obstacles that were put in front of me right from the start.”
“Winning my first world championship in Edmonton in 2014 was a real highlight. I think that result was a surprise to everyone except for Matt (husband) and Andrew (my coach).”
“Crossing the finish line and having Matt and the rest of the Aussie Para team waiting for me there was amazing.”
Triathlon Australia’s Paratriathlon Lead, Kyle Burns said that Pilbeam has had a profound impact on paratriathlon since her debut for Australia in 2013.
“Sally came into the sport at a time when paratriathlon was still quite new, but right from the start she knew what it meant to be an athlete and she was ahead of the curve in the way that she went about it,” Burns said.
“Her results speak volumes for the focused and very professional athlete that she is; three-time World Champion, three-time World Championship silver medallist, number one ranked PTS4 athlete. You don’t achieve those kinds of results without the dedication and commitment that Sally has shown throughout her career.”
“She will definitely be missed amongst the Australian Paratriathlon Team. However, she should retire comfortable in the knowledge that she leaves the sport in an indefinitely better place than where it was when she began, not just through her results but also through her work as a member of the ITU Athlete Commission as well.”
Although calling time on her elite paratriathlon career, Pilbeam is confident that the sport will continue to play a role in her life.
“I will always be involved in triathlon in some way. I’ll race locally and do some longer events. I’m still part of the ITU Athlete Committee so I’ll still be involved in the growth and development of the sport.”
Triathlon Australia would like to congratulate Sally Pilbeam on an outstanding paratriathlon career that has seen her achieve success on and off the course and thank her for her service to the sport. We wish her and her family all the best for the future.
ITU Career: 2013 – 2020
ITU Paratriathlon World Champion (2014, 2015)
ITU Paratriathlon Duathlon World Champion (2015)
3 x ITU Paratriathlon World Championship silver medals (2016, 2017, 2018)
3 x ITU World Paratriathlon Series wins
2 x ITU Paratriathlon World Cup wins
6 x OTU Oceania Paratriathlon Championship wins