Celebrating the Debut of Paratriathlon at the Paralympics!
When Jim MacLaren went 10:42 at the Ironman and finished in the top 20% of everyone in the race, it showed that challenged athletes could compete at the highest level of endurance sports. Then, after John Maclean paved the way by becoming the first paralyzed athlete to finish Kona in 1997, David Bailey and Carlos Moleda’s battles over the next three years showcased wheelchair-bound athletes and the disability simply disappeared.Their rivalry became about two amazing athletes wanting to kick the other’s ass, which is what sports in its rawest form is all about. Sarah Reinertsen, after missing the bike cutoff time in Kona in her first attempt, went on to make all of the cutoff times the following year and become the first single above-knee amputee woman to finish the Ironman.
The Challenged Athletes Foundation’s impact on the sport of triathlon has been immense. I’m heading to Rio because there was no way I was going to miss the first-ever Olympic Triathlon back in 2000 in Sydney, and there was no way I’d miss the first-ever Paralympic Paratriathlon on Copacabana Beach September 10th and 11th.
This newsletter celebrates some of the people who helped make Paralympic inclusion a reality, and some of the stars representing the United States.
Jon Beeson fought tirelessly for the creation and inclusion of paratriathlon in the Paralympics for over 15 years. Now, this quest that started in 1998 has become a reality, and Jon is in Rio to witness firsthand the celebration of the first-ever Paralympic paratriathletes competing on the world’s biggest stage. Last September, I spoke with Jon about paratriathlon’s road to Rio.
Tricia Downing was a high-level cyclist who came to San Diego one year and piloted a blind cyclist at The Challenged Athlete’s Foundation San Diego Triathlon Challenge. When she was back home in Colorado, she was hit by a car while cycling and ended up paralyzed. While in her hospital bed she applied for a CAF grant to get a handcycle. With that handcycle she became a top paratriathlete, finished two Ironman triathlons, competed in Kona, and pushed for Paratriathlon to be included in the Paralympics. Tricia is in Rio competing on the US Paralympic Shooting Team.
Melissa Stockwell served her country in Iraq and lost her leg in 2004 when she was struck by an IED. During her time spent post-injury at Walter Reed Medical Center, Melissa found the support and sport (swimming) that helped her leave her injury behind and start a new life. After coming to the Challenged Athletes Foundation San Diego Triathlon Challenge in 2009, Melissa discovered triathlon, and since then, there’s been no looking back! Melissa is now a mom, and in Rio on the US Paratriathlon Team. In this interview filmed with Melissa in her hometown at the ITU Paratriathlon Championships in Chicago, you can feel her enthusiasm and leadership jump through the camera. Melissa is an incredible representative for the United States in the first-ever Paratriathlon at the Paralympics in Rio.
Allysa Seely was a top age-group triathlete at Arizona State when she lost her leg. Just a few short years later, she became one of the best amputee triathletes in the world. When I spoke with Allysa in Chicago at the ITU World Championships, she was still in the hunt to make the Paralympic team. Now, just three years after becoming an amputee, Allysa is not only on the US Paralympic Paratriathlon team, but she is also a favorite for Gold in Rio.