Chaffey stars at inaugural Australian Paratriathlon Championships
Sunday, 13 January 2013
January 13 - Triple world champion Bill Chaffey has made history by winning the first ever title at the inaugural Australian Paratriathlon National Championships at the Sydney International Regatta Centre.
The event has been introduced in Australia largely due to the fact that the sport will make its debut at the Paralympic Games at Rio 2016 and Chaffey underlined his status as one of the early favourites for gold in Brazil as Chaffey won the Tri 1 class for athletes who use wheelchairs.
The 35-year-old from New South Wales had his work cut when he found himself pitted against Paralympian and Hawaiian Ironman Hall of Fame inductee John Maclean, who is his close friend, as well as London 2012 Paralympic rowing silver medallist Erik Horrie in the race for the first national title.
But Chaffey built a considerable lead in the 750 metre swim and 20 kilometre bike ride to ultimately cruise home in the five kilometre run almost 10 minutes ahead of Maclean and Horrie.
"Normally by best leg is the swim but I struggled a little bit with sighting today," said Chaffey, who has won the won the world title in 2009, 2011 and 2012 world titles
"Still came out with a good swim time but I felt really strong in the bike today.
It's a nice, smooth course, so it was good to get some speed up."
Before Paratriathlon, Chaffey competed on the national triathlon circuit before he was hit by a truck in 2004 while training for his first Ironman competition.
He was left with significant injuries including a paralysed leg but soon got in touch with Maclean, the man who made history by becoming the first wheelchair athlete to finish the Hawaiian Ironman Triathlon.
Maclean was paralysed in a similar accident while training for a triathlon and offered some words of advice that changed Chaffey's life.
"He actually rang me after I sent him an email and gave me the inspiration I needed," said Chaffey.
"Looking at him as an ironman hall of famer, first person in a wheelchair to complete Hawaii, it's something to look up to and it's a proud feeling that he's an Aussie.
"He kicked the sport off and I hope I can follow in his footsteps, or wheel treads."
Meanwhile for Maclean, competing at the first Australian Paratriathlon National Championships was an honour.
"I was part of International Triathlon Union back in 1996 and there weren't too many wheelchair athletes involved back then," he said.
"It's great to see the sport has evolved at a Paralympic level.
"I think you'll find now that it's a Paralympic sport, you're going to get a lot of top athletes crossing over – a lot of top swimmers, hand-cyclists and wheelchair racers.
"I would suggest the standard now is only going to go vertical, which is encouraging for the sport and gives Bill something to aim for."
Elsewhere nine-time Paralympic wheelchaire racing champion Louise Sauvage competed in her first triathlon as the only female wheelchair competitor but was quick to rule out a comeback.
"Absolutely not, no Rio," said Sauvage.
"I'm sure I'll do another triathlon for sure, but not a comeback."
Six-time Paralympic winter gold medallist Michael Milton was the only competitor in the Tri 2 class for above knee amputees in what was third Para-triathlon whil Claire Maclean won the women's Tri 4 class for athletes with arm impairment, beating Sally Bilbeam by almost 19 minutes.
Dale Grant edged out dual Paralympic cycling gold medallist Peter Brooks in the men's Tri 4 division while Justin Godfrey won the men's Tri 5 class for below knee amputees ahead of Ross Mason and Damon Kendrick.
In the vision impaired classes, Jonathan Goerlach finished beat John Domandl and Nathan Johnstone while Paralympic cycling gold medallist Lindy Hou was the only competitor in the women's class.
The athletes will now train look to continue their training for the 2013 Paratriathlon World Championships to be held in London in September.