The year in review: Tokyo 2020 Paralympic Games
Eight races, eight incredible Paralympic Champions, the Tokyo 2020 para triathlon racing lived up to the hype and more as one of the standout events in the Japanese capital at the end of August. Spread across two hot and humid days on the Odaiba Bay course, this was only the second edition of the Games in which para triathlon races featured on the schedule of the biggest occasion in the sport, and here’s how they were won…
Three times a World Champion, three times a European Champion, undefeated all season long… In August, the flying Frenchman Alexis Hanquinquant added a new title to his extensive collection: Paralympic Champion in the PTS4 class at the Tokyo 2020 Paralympic Games. Second over the finish line in Odaiba Bay was local hero Hideki Uda, earning Japan’s first Paralympic medal in triathlon, Spaniard Alejandro Sanchez Palomero claimed bronze.
It was Michael Taylor (GBR) and Hanquinquant who took the lead from the first strokes of the swim, opening a significant margin over the rest of the field. Once they were on their bikes, it was even more clear that Hanquinquant was a man on a mission, carving out more than two minutes of daylight while behind him, Spaniard Palomero went full gas to chase down Taylor. The Frenchman was all smiles as powered onward to claim his first ever Paralympic gold medal, almost four minutes ahead of Hideki Uda who ran himself into silver, the third place going to Palomero. Full report here.
“Today was a really hard day, with the humidity. To swim and to bike was OK, but on the run I really struggled. This is a dream for me. The people here in Japan are fantastic, always supporting. Thank you so much to everyone, and I hope to repeat this in Paris.” – ALEXIS HANQUINQUANT (FRA)
Allysa Seely has been a dominant force in the PTS2 class for several years, and continued to prove her immense ability in Tokyo where a powerful run to the Tokyo 2020 finish made the American the first woman to win back-to-back Paralympic Triathlon gold medals. Behind her, teammate Hailey Danz claimed the silver and Italy’s Veronica Plebani the bronze.
It was Yukako Hata (JPN) who showed magnificent swimming technique to the delight of the crowds and lead the swim but as soon as they were on their bikes, Danz, Seely, Fran Brown and Plebani forged ahead, taking turns out front to establish a gap to fifth place of almost 2 minutes by the end of the 20km ride. With 30 seconds separating that top four and only three medals to chase, it was Danz who decided to strike first, and as Brown struggled to keep in check, Seely was next to make her move, eventually passing her teammate with less than one kilometre to go and romp to gold, Danz and Plebani with silver and bronze. Full report here.
“I just can’t believe what happened this morning, it is just incredible.” – ALLYSA SEELY (USA)
PTVI WOMEN’S RACE
Susana Rodriguez B1 delivered the Paralympic gold she dreamed of by a huge 4-minute margin of victory alongside her guide Sara Loehr in Tokyo’s race for the visually impaired. Italian Anna Barbaro B1 (and guide Charlotte Bonin) finished second, Annouk Curzillat B1 with Celine Busrez (France) winning the bronze.
Twelve athletes had toed the start line for a gripping race, the Spaniard looking eager to go all out from the start, Canada’s Jessica Tuomela B1 tucked in behind her through the water. The Canadian managed to hold onto Rodrigues until the second transition, when suddenly Barbaro, Curzillat and Allison Peasgood B2 looked ready to seize any opportunity. Rodriguez was to prove untouchable as she ran solo to the tape while behind her it was Barbaro who claimed silver, the best result of her career so far, and an incredible last kilometre gave Curzillat the bronze medal despite the last-ditch efforts of Peasgood. Full report here.
“In the world of sports, this means everything. We can do really good races, we can win world championships and each race has its own history. But there is nothing as big as the Paralympics. Since I was a kid and I realised I had a disability I wanted to go to the Paralympics. Today we executed the plan to perfection.” – SUSANA RODRIGUEZ (ESP)
MEN’S PTVI RACE
The men’s PTVI event made its Paralympic debut at Tokyo 2020 with a stacked field of world-class talent that eventually saw Brad Snyder of Team USA crowned Champion, capitalising on an unfortunate chain issue for Britain’s Dave Ellis B2 and going on to deliver a memorable win. Behind him, Spain’s Héctor Catalá Laparra chased down the silver and Japan’s Satoru Yoneoka had the race of his life to earn bronze.
Snyder was the first of the men out of the 750m swim with his guide Greg Billington followed by Jose García and Satoru Yoneoka, Kyle Coon (USA) also in contention as a devastated Dave Ellis was forced out of the race early due to a mechanical. Out of T2 Snyder enjoyed a sizable lead that even Spain’s Laparra couldn’t quite close down and settling for silver ahead of Satoru Yoneoka with a magnificent third place. Full report here.
“It’s a big moment, because you spend so much time visualising and hoping, preparing for it. My life is not about winning. It’s about challenge, it’s about taking on challenges, learning new skills, expanding my boundaries and capabilities. In triathlon there are so many skills, there is so much to learn. There is even stuff I screwed up today. I didn’t get my shoes on all that fast in transition two, so there’s lots of room for improvement.” – BRAD SNYDER (USA)
MEN’S PTWC RACE
Dutch para triathlete Jetze Plat H2 knew he was the man to beat going in to Tokyo. Paralympic gold in Rio 2016, five-time World Champion and, after another magnificent display, it was indeed the Dutchman who stormed to his second Paralympic gold in Tokyo. Austrian Florian Brungraber H2 finished in second place, while Italian Giovanni Achenza H1 grabbed the bronze medal, the same one he got in Rio five years ago.
With the water in Odaiba Bay slightly over 30 degrees, the H1 athletes were out first, Australian Nic Beveridge H1 taking the lead in the swim, followed closely by Rio 2016 bronze medallist Giovanni Achenza, but starting just behind them, Plat was a man on a mission. Fastest through the water by nearly a full minute, he then showed tremendous handbike skills to extend his lead riding solo all the way to the tape for yet another magnificent gold. In the race for the rest of the podium positions, Geert Schipper H2 (NED) found himself just out of the medal contention as Austria’s rising star Brungraber showed impressive skills with the racing wheelchair to climb to second place, Achenza able to hang tough in third place just as he did at Rio 2016. Full report here.
“I just had to win here. It didn’t really matter to me in what time I would finish or what the difference with others would be. Before competition, everyone always thinks that I will win easily. Of course that worked out, but this is such a difficult sport in terms of all the material you use, possible penalties and things that can go wrong and all that. I knew I was in shape physically, and I just went all out.” – JETZE PLAT (NED)
WOMEN’S PTWC RACE
Less than a second, that was the difference. The blink of an eye separated gold and silver in the Paralympic debut of the Women’s PTWC class as American Kendall Gretsch H2 timed her move to perfection to win the title ahead of Australia’s Lauren Parker H1, who had led the race from the start until the vital final throes at the finish line. Spaniard Eva Maria Moral Pedrero H1 crossed in third place to win a precious Paralympic bronze.
After a fine swim it was Parker who left the first transition with over 40 seconds to the chasers, Margret Ijdema (NED) and Eva Moral mounting their handbikes almost together, while Gretsch was almost two minutes behind having set off later with the H2-class athletes Mona Francis H2 and Wakako Tsuchida H2. Parker looked good over the 20km, but into the racing wheelchair it was Gretsch closing in with every turn. Even as she hit the blue carpet for the last time the young Australian led, but it would be Gretsch who had the vital reserves of energy to summon a final burst with 100m to go and take the tape by less than a second, Moral coming home third. Full report here.
“I knew it was going to be such a close race, so that finish is something I have been training for with my coach and my team this entire extra year. I couldn’t see Lauren in front of me until the very last lap of the run. But as soon as I saw her, I was like; ‘Hey, you just have to do it, you have to give everything you can.’ On that final stretch I just put my head down and that was all I could do.” – KENDALL GRETSCH (USA)
MEN’S PTS5 RACE
German Paralympian Martin Schulz produced the run of his life to earn victory in the Men’s PTS5 race and defend the title he won five years ago at Rio 2016. Joining him on the podium were Great Britain’s George Peasgood and the 2016 Paralympic silver medallist, Stefan Daniel (CAN).
Peasgood looked in fine form as he completed the swim and came out of the water a full minute ahead of rivals Schulz, Daniel and the Brazilian Ronan Cordeiro. Indeed, at the end of the first lap of the bike segment, the Brit was still going well, but Schulz set about gradually reeling him in. Out of T2 still in pole, the German eased through the gears with an almighty 5km run, eventually passing the leader to win a brilliant second gold, Peasgood not relinquishing his grip on the silver despite the rapid Canadian closing in who ultimately had to settle for bronze. Full report here.
“It feels amazing. After Rio, not everything worked well. But this was my goal. I worked every day for this. This is what I expected from myself and what others expected from me. After the second lap in the run I knew I could do this again. I pushed for it from the very first metres in the swim, my bike was really good as well. The first lap in the run wasn’t that great, but it got better… It was a bit of a runner’s high, I think.” – MARTIN SCHULZ (GER)
WOMEN’S PTS5 RACE
Britain’s Lauren Steadman nailed her race in Odaiba Bay on Paralympic Super Sunday to claim victory in the women’s PTS5, an event that saw great friends and rivals USA’s Grace Norman finishing in the silver medal position and Claire Cashmore (GBR) holding on to the third place after a complicated race in which she had to serve various penalties.
It was Rio 2016 champion Norman leading out of the water and into the first transition of the day, swim specialist Claire Cashmore of Great Britain next through transition, closely followed by Lauren Steadman and Canada’s Kamylle Frenette. The American had established an 11-second lead but there was no surprise that Steadman would be up for the battle, and by lap three she had taken the lead. The pair entered T2 within seconds of each other but it was Steadman who produced the quicker change and move onto the run course as leader, a position she held right to the line to win by 40seconds from Norman, Cashmore with bronze. Full report here.
“I went in and I really had no idea how it was going to go. The standard in my category is fantastic. Grace Norman could have taken it, Claire Cashmore could have. The cards were going to fall one way or the other. Today they fell my way. After Rio I was devastated, and I really withdrew from sport. I don’t think this has quite sunk in yet, I feel quite teary. I can’t believe I did it. I am over the moon.” – LAUREN STEADMAN (GBR)
Related Event: Tokyo 2020 Paralympic Games
|Results: PTWC Men|
|1.||Jetze Plat H2||NED||00:57:51|
|2.||Florian Brungraber H2||AUT||00:59:55|
|3.||Giovanni Achenza H1||ITA||01:02:05|
|4.||Geert Schipper H2||NED||01:03:01|
|5.||Ahmed Andaloussi H1||FRA||01:04:45|
|Results: PTS5 Men|
|Results: PTWC Women|
|1.||Kendall Gretsch H2||USA||01:06:25|
|2.||Lauren Parker H1||AUS||01:06:26|
|3.||Eva María Moral Pedrero H1||ESP||01:14:59|
|4.||Jessica Ferreira H1||BRA||01:16:23|
|5.||Brenda Osnaya Alvarez H1||MEX||01:16:32|
|Results: PTVI Women|
|1.||Susana Rodriguez B1||ESP||01:07:15|
|2.||Anna Barbaro B1||ITA||01:11:11|
|3.||Annouck Curzillat B1||FRA||01:11:45|
|4.||Alison Peasgood B2||GBR||01:11:47|
|5.||Jessica Tuomela B1||CAN||01:12:53|
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