The Contact National Triathlon Championships take place in Wellington this Saturday and included on the programme is the Paratri for athletes with disabilities, with London Paralympic Gold Medallist Mary Fisher on the start list for an event that also carries Oceania status for the first time.
Triathlon New Zealand is focused on developing the pathway for disabled athletes into Paratri. Shanelle Barrett is charged with that work as Inclusion Manager with the national body and is excited about providing opportunities to satisfy all skill levels.
“It is exciting to see Triathlon NZ hosting the inaugural Oceania Paratriathlon Champs and it is fitting considering the Triathlon NZ Inclusion program is in its first 6 months of development. Since the programme started we have seen a huge increase in the interest in triathlon for disabled athletes, this is ranging from first timers to those that have goals and dreams of competing in Paratriathlon in the Rio Paralympics 2016.
“The interest from potential athletes has taken me by surprise and has far surpassed what I expected within the first 4 months of the programme. It is imperative that the inclusion programme, funded by Halberg Disability Sport Foundation, continues to be funded to ensure that we can cater to the needs of these amazing athletes which in turn will see New Zealand paratriathletes on the start line in future Paralympics.”
Wellington’s Mary Fisher will transfer her world class swimming skills into the sport of triathlon for the first time with her entry confirmed last night by Triathlon New Zealand Inclusion Manager Shanelle Barrett. For the moment Fisher won’t be eligible for the official NZ and Oceania titles on the line as she will be guided by a male athlete, however her participation in the event is a huge fillip for Paratri in New Zealand.
Wellington’s Nick Ruane is back to defend his national title, Ruane races in the Tri 3 category and was 7th at the Barfoot & Thompson World Championships in Auckland last October and has his eyes set on the Rio Olympics in 2016.
“I am looking to have the best possible race on Saturday, and to meet my personal goals in each discipline. Beyond that I hope to get the opportunity to represent New Zealand again as I better understand the pathway and what is required of me to wear the silver fern at Rio 2016.”
Drew McLean is like Fisher taking part in his first triathlon. McLean has an arm impairment and is in the Tri 4 category. The Dunedin based athlete is nervous but excited about his first foray into the sport.
While not in the Paratri event itself, young Olivia Wickens is no less brave as she contemplates racing in the children’s Contact 1:2:1. Olivia is 11 years old and has 6/60 vision – essentially this means what most other people see clearly at 60 metres Olivia sees at 6 metres, and even then only if the object is reasonably large.
Olivia’s mum Michelle is proud of her very determined young daughter who already has the Paralympics as a goal.
“The rule of thumb is once you get beyond a metre Olivia starts to lose clarity, it’s more an outline. For close up, like doing up shoelaces she needs to within a few centimetres. Her glasses do help, especially for photo phobia (light sensitivity) as they are tinted but they do not correct her sight. Running directly into the sunlight, or the glare from the sea will decrease her sight even further.
“I guided Olivia in a bog challenge run, (cross country obstacle course) one of the more technical challenges for Olivia, because of her sight, is that she is unable to gauge any depth perception, her world is flat - therefore when you are running into a river she's not sure how big the step will be up or down. So steps, curbs, uneven ground etc will be where she might take your arm or you could talk her over it, giving her a warning ‘curb coming up on your right-hand side in about 10 steps.’
“Having said all of that, Olivia has raced in cross country (with a support person) for the last 3 years and has never fallen over. We tend not to think of her sight too much and what she lacks in vision she more than makes up for in determination.”
Contact Triathlon National Championships
Incorporating Oceania Championships for elite categories
Saturday 9 March
***Contact Trophy Age Group Nationals Men <50 7.15am
Men >50 & Teams 7.17am
**Paratri (Oceania Champs) Men and Women 7.40am
Contact 1:2:1 Boys 8.00am
Contact 3:9:3 beginners Men 9.20am
Women & Teams 9.23am
*U19 Elite Men 10.00am
***Elite Open & U23 Women 10.30am
Prize giving Mercure Willis St 6.00pm
* Paratri distance is 750m swim, 20km bike, 5km run
**U19 Elite is over 750m swim, 20km bike, 5km run and is for National and Oceania Sprint Championship titles
***Trophy and Open and U23 elite races are over the standard distance of 1500m swim, 40km bike, 10km run and are for National Standard Distance titles