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Paralympic Games Triathlon: a new road to Tokyo opens…

Chief Correspondent

Important changes announced for Tokyo 2020 Paralympic Games Triathlon qualification

In August this year, I wrote an article titled, “Dreams made and broken as Tokyo 2020 Paratriathlon medal categories announced“.

The context of that article was to explain (as was the case for 2016), while ‘Paratriathlon is in the Paralympic Games‘, that didn’t mean that every Elite paratriathlete had the opportunity to go.

With six global categories in the sport, only four each (men and women), would have their division included in Tokyo. This meant for example, that reigning Rio 2016 Gold medallist, Andy Lewis, would not have the opportunity to defend that title. What’s in, and what’s out, is summarised below:

Description **
Severe Physical impairment
Significant Physical Impairment
Moderate Physical Impairment
Mild Physical Impairment
Visually Impaired

(** Note ‘layman’s terms’ used above for brevity and clarity – the full details of the Paratriathlon ITU categorisation methodology can be found HERE).


What’s changed?

Now, that is all still true – but with a twist. Announced this week by the ITU Executive Board and the International Paralympic Committee (full details below), athletes in categories not included on the Tokyo 2020 program now have the opportunity to try and qualify by “classing-up”, and racing in a division that has a lesser degree of impairment to their own. In simple terms, the opportunity at least, to race against athletes who – all other things being equal – would likely be faster than them, due to their lesser degree of impairment. Specifically:

  • PTS2 and PTS3 men can race as PTS4 in Tokyo
  • PTS3 and PTS4 women can race as PTS5 in Tokyo

A significant challenge therefore – but also a potentially significant change, because at the very least, it partially opens up the Tokyo door which on 6th August the year had seemingly been slammed shut for some.

What does that mean in practice?

Ok, let’s take a practical example. At the recent ITU Paratriathlon World Championships in Gold Coast – in her first year in the sport – Great Britain’s Hannah Moore won the Gold medal in the PTS4 category. Hannah’s PTS4 category will not be a medal event in Tokyo and prior to this week she was not eligible to race in Tokyo. Now, she could – if she was able to gain selection – not race ‘up’ in the PTS5 division.

Based on the race finishing times in Gold Coast, Hannah would have placed sixth in the PTS5 division (which was won by Lauren Steadman, who is currently gracing our screens each weekend in ‘Strictly’!), 3:31 away from the Bronze medal time of current Paralympic Champion, Grace Norman (USA). Given the current and historic strength-in-depth of the British women in the PTS5 category (e.g. Claire Cashmore won Silver behind Lauren), qualification won’t be easy – but at least there is now an opportunity. I contacted Hannah to get her thoughts on the news:

“Following the announcement of the medal category for the Tokyo 2020 Paralympics, I had hoped that the rules would change allowing athletes to ‘class-up’ and allow the opportunity to potentially qualify and then get selected to race at the Games. For me the prospect is very exciting because all I have ever wanted is the opportunity to try and get myself there. I want to be the best athlete I can be and love a challenge so the fact that this is now an option definitely opens more/new opportunities for myself in the next few years.”

ITU announces the Rankings and Qualification Criteria for the Tokyo 2020 Paralympics

ITU is pleased to announce that the Executive Board and the International Paralympic Committee have approved the Paralympic Rankings and the Qualification Criteria for the Tokyo 2020 Paralympic Games.

Following the announcement of the eight Tokyo 2020 Paratriathlon medal events in August, the ITU and IPC have agreed that paratriathletes from classes that do not have their medal event on the programme, may obtain qualification slots for their NPC by competing in a higher class. This is known as classing-up.

“This announcement is very important for our sport and all our paratriathletes, as we are giving all of them the chance to vie for Paralympic glory”, said ITU President and IOC member, Marisol Casado. “Having eight medal events at the Tokyo 2020 Paralympics meant that not all classes were catered for at the Games.  By allowing classing-up, athletes without their event in the programme now have the opportunity to go the extra mile and try to be there, even if competing against athletes with different impairments. This is an optimal solution given the existing limitations, and ITU will continue to work to have more presence in future editions of the Paralympics”, explained Casado.

Men’s sport classes PTS2 and PTS3 will score ranking points for the Tokyo 2020 Paralympic Qualification Rankings of the Men’s PTS4 Medal Event, making them potentially eligible to compete in that event.

Women’s sport classes PTS3 and PTS4 will score ranking points for the Tokyo 2020 Paralympic Qualification Rankings of the Women’s PTS5 Medal Event, making them potentially eligible to compete in that event.

The Paralympic qualification period will comprise twelve months, from 29 June 2019 through to 29 June 2020, and athletes will account for their best three results during this period.

The Qualification events will be the ITU Paratriathlon World Championships in 2019 in Lausanne; the ITU World Paratriathlon Series Events within the period; one ITU Paratriathlon Continental Championships per region (if there are two during qualification term, the first one will not count); and the ITU Paratriathlon World Cups.

The ITU also announced more events that will be included in the 2019 calendar of Paratriathlon, with Milano (Italy) hosting for the first time a World Paratriathlon Series event in April 27, 2019, and Magog (Canada) welcoming once more a Paratriathlon World Cup in July 13/14, 2019. Further additions to the Paratriathlon calendar are expected in the near future.

John Levison
Written by
John Levison
TRI247's Chief Correspondent, John has been involved in triathlon for well over 30 years, 15 of those writing on these pages, whilst he can also be found commentating for events across the UK.
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