As the going got really tough in the Women’s PTVI Para triathlon at Odaiba Marine Park in Tokyo on Saturday morning, guide Briarna Silk posed a question to Katie Kelly.
“Can you give me more?” Silk asked the Rio gold medallist. “I was saying ‘Yes’,” Kelly said after the race, “but that was what I had.”
It was enough for sixth, in the end. Not what Kelly had planned when she contacted Dan Atkins a couple of weeks after Rio and asked him to coach her to Tokyo. There had been ups and downs over those five years – moving states, changing guides, joining a new program – but there were never excuses.
“We were chasing the Canadians and Great Britain, trying to get a podium spot,” Kelly said. “It didn’t happen, but I’m so proud of our effort.”
Asked about racing in Tokyo’s extreme heat and humidity, she said: “We’re both from Queensland. We love the humidity, we train in a heated pool and in a heat chamber, so the heat was to our advantage.
“It did catch up with me. But it was just a strong race. The girls out there are super strong, they’re coming up younger in the ranks and they were able to handle the heat today.”
In the Men’s PTVI, Games debutant Jonathan Goerlach and guide David Mainwaring came in eighth after giving everything they had.
“I waited 10 years to get to this moment,” Goerlach said. “It would have been good to get a better result today, but we busted our guts and, at the end of the day, I’m still a Paralympian and I’m pretty stoked with that.”
Like Kelly, Goerlach made no excuses.
“For us in NSW, we’ve been in lockdown for two months, as everyone at home knows, and we’ve had a green tent set up in the garage trying to do our training, we’ve just been doing what we can, preparing as best we can,” he said.
“Whatever happened today, happened. I don’t think we could have gone any harder than we did.”
PTWC – Sunday 29 August
Less than a second was the difference between gold and silver in yesterday’s Paralympic debut for the Women’s PTWC class and Australia’s Lauren Parker left nothing in the tank to claim Silver in a thrilling sprint finish with USA’s Kendall Gretsch.
Parker led for the entire race except the last moment. She said she had become stuck behind another competitor she was trying to lap around a corner and lost a few decisive seconds.
“I just put my head down and went for it,” she said. “I’m happy with the effort that I put in. I’m proud of my effort.”
To the ultra-competitive perfectionist in Lauren Parker, being overtaken with literally the final wheelchair push of the PTWC Para triathlon was almost unbearable.
To the Lauren Parker who had just acquired paraplegia after a training accident in 2017, the idea of reaching the podium at the Paralympic Games may have seemed like an achievement of which she could feel immensely proud.
“This time four years ago I was laying in hospital bed thinking my life was over,” Parker said after the race, in which she was pipped by America’s Kendall Gretsch by 0.01 of a second after more than an hour of racing.
“I had amazing support around me and, if it wasn’t for that support, I wouldn’t have overcome that life-changing injury. I’ve overcome many surgeries and many obstacles over the last four years. I definitely never would have dreamed of representing my country four years later.”
For fellow Aussie competitor Emily Tapp, it was a heart-breaking day in Tokyo. The 2017 and 2018 World Champion received 10 stitches after suffering a deep gash to her right leg when she collided with a barrier during the cycle leg of the Women’s PTWC event.
Tapp had seemingly lost concentration momentarily and paid a high price, slamming into a hoarding at full speed.
Australian Paralympic Team Chief Medical Officer Dr Pip Inge, who was present at the race, tended to Tapp immediately.
Dr Inge said after treating Tapp that the 30-year-old was shaken but fine. “She’s got a big gash in her right leg. We’ve cleaned it, sewn it up and we’ll take her back to our medical facility to review her.”
Tapp was competing at her first Paralympics after being forced to withdraw from the Rio 2016 track and field team after suffering burns to her legs, losing the race against time to recover and compete.
In the Men’s PTWC, Rio 2016 Paralympian Nic Beveridge was all class, improving on his Rio performance by two places, finishing seventh among a competitive PTWC men’s field of the world’s best Para triathletes.
“I love the fact that a number of us have been going since 2013 or even before that, and the level just keeps getting better and better,” said Beveridge.
“I feel really proud of myself for being here, but nothing breaks your heart like reality. It’s a really good heart-breaker and while I’m defeated, not quite deflated, I love this competition – that I’ll now go away, process the emotions and then start asking questions – how do I get better.”
PTS5 – Sunday 29 August
In the final Para triathlon race of Tokyo 2020, the PTS5, Games debutant David Bryant also finished seventh.
“I lived a dream today. It’s been a long journey, probably 15 years in the making,” Bryant said.
“I wasn’t that nervous on the start line, I was just trying to embrace it all. I was really calm and ready. I gave it my all. I could have done better in the last half of the swim. My run was opposite – I couldn’t really find my legs in the first half but came good in the second half.
“I just pushed to the end and I was just proud to wear the green and gold.”
Tokyo 2020 Para triathlon Results (AUS)
Women’s PTVI: Katie Kelly & guide Briarna Silk | 6th place (01:13:01)
Men’s PTVI: Jonathan Goerlach & guide Dave Mainwaring | 8th place (01:06:18)
Men’s PTWC: Nic Beveridge | 7th place (01:04:50)
Women’s PTWC: Lauren Parker | 2nd SILVER (01:06:26)
Women’s PTWC: Emily Tapp | DNF
Men’s PTS5: David Bryant | 7th (01:02:30)