Dreams made and broken as Tokyo 2020 Paratriathlon medal categories announced

Andy Lewis Rio 2016 Paralympic Games Paratriathlon - Delly Carr / ITU Media

No Tokyo Paralympic Games repeat for Rio 2016 Gold medallist Andy Lewis

It’s a day of both joy and despair for many Elite Paratriathletes around the world today, with the news confirmed of which medal events will be included – and which not included – at the Tokyo 2020 Paralympic Games.

In short, while Rio 2016 did represent the debut of Paratriathlon within the Paralympic Games, that didn’t mean that every athlete would have the potential to race. As a reminder, pre-2016 there were five Paratriathlon categories, but only three each of those (different for men and women), were included on the medal programme. This was the situation for Rio in 2016:

Category
Description **
Men
Women
PT1
Wheelchair
Included
EXCLUDED
PT2
Severe Physical impairment
Included
Included
PT3
Moderate Physical Impairment
EXCLUDED
EXCLUDED
PT4
Mild Physical Impairment
Included
Included
PT5
Visually Impaired
EXCLUDED
Included

The Tokyo 2020 medal programme will see an increase from six to eight medals – however, during the same period there have been some changes to the classification process, which still means that two categories, male and female, will miss out:

Category
Description **
Men
Women
PTWC
Wheelchair
Included
Included
PTS2
Severe Physical impairment
EXCLUDED
Included
PTS3
Significant Physical Impairment
EXCLUDED
EXCLUDED
PTS4
Moderate Physical Impairment
Included
EXCLUDED
PTS5
Mild Physical Impairment
Included
Included
PTVI
Visually Impaired
Included
Included

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

The bad news…

A quick look at this from a British perspective based on results from the 2018 European and 2017 World Championships means that athletes that won’t be able to target Tokyo include:

  • PTS2 Men – Rio 2016 Paralympic Gold medallist and reigning World Champion, Andy Lewis.
  • PTS3 Men – European Championship Silver medallist, Ryan Taylor.
  • PTS4 Women – European Champion, Hannah Moore.

Commenting on today’s news, Andy Lewis MBE said:

“I am devastated by the news that my class will not be included in the Tokyo 2020 programme and I will not have the opportunity to defend my PT2 Paralympic title. The news came out of the blue, and I need more time to digest it and consider my options, but my immediate thoughts remain on defending my ITU world title on the Gold Coast next month and continuing to do what I love; working with young people and schools.

“Maybe there’s a media role for me in Tokyo, or something else. The Paralympic Games motivates me more than anything else and my love of triathlon doesn’t change. So although I am bitterly disappointed, I am still committed to my own training, and to helping young people fulfil their potential and nurture the next generation of triathletes.

“I love sharing my passion for triathlon with kids and young people. This year I organised a series of run, swim and bike camps and a mini triathlon in my local community and did a coaching session with kids in Abu Dhabi. Transitioning to a career in coaching and mentoring was always my plan for after Tokyo. It has just happened a lot sooner than I was expecting.”

The good news…

Those for whom today’s news is more positive include Dave Ellis (PTVI), who has been the dominant athlete in the visually impaired division recently. It also open up the potential for Mark Buckingham – who has been guiding Dave on a number of occasions recently – to potentially commit to that role leading up to Tokyo. Dave is such a fast runner, that finding a Guide who can also match his run pace has not been an easy process. With the men’s VI category absent from Rio 2016, this could provide the reward for Dave continuing with his triathlon career.

Others who will welcome today’s news include Commonwealth Games champion, Jade Jones (PTWC), Steve Crowley (PTS4) and Fran Brown (PTS2).

Jade said of the confirmation that the women’s wheelchair division will be included, “The news on categories has come earlier than expected but obviously for me and the other female wheelchair athletes it’s fantastic. Our category wasn’t included in Rio, but now we have an opportunity to race on the biggest stage of all in Tokyo.”

Below is the full, formal news announcement received today.


IPC and ITU announce Tokyo 2020 Paratriathlon medal events

The International Paralympic Committee (IPC) and the International Triathlon Union (ITU) on Monday (6 August) confirmed the eight Paratriathlon medal events that will be contested at the Tokyo 2020 Paralympic Games.

In Tokyo there will be two more medal events and 20 additional athletes compared to Paratriathlon’s debut at Rio 2016, where 60 athletes contested six medal events. There will also be gender parity in the Japanese capital with four medal events set to be contested by women and four by men.  All medal events will feature 10 athletes.

The medal events that have been chosen by the ITU and approved by the IPC are:

Women: PTWC, PTS2, PTS5, and PTVI
Men: PTWC, PTS4, PTS5, and PTVI

“I am pleased with the decision of increasing the number of medals to eight and the number of paratriathletes competing in Tokyo 2020 to 80, which is two more medal events than in Rio 2016, and 20 more paratriathletes that will have the chance of vying for Paralympic glory”, said ITU President and IOC Member, Marisol Casado. “We will keep on working with the IPC for having more classes and more athletes in the next editions of the Games. But we are confident that the incredible performances of our paratriathletes, their strength and commitment and their show-stopping displays will have the potential to conjure up some more of that special magic that we have”, she added.

Jonathan Goerlach, ITU paratriathlete and member of the Athletes Committee, said: “This is another very exciting opportunity for our sport. In Rio we only had three medal events per gender, and we now have four. It is great to have a greater representation of our sport in the Paralympics. This is a step forward. We have to remember that we are still a quite young sport, this is our second appearance in the Paralympics, and although everyone wants to be there, and the ITU wants everyone to have the opportunity to be at the Paralympics, we are still growing. We have to keep the positive of this, and keep moving forward”.

In deciding which events to include in the Tokyo 2020 Paralympic programme, ITU assessed the depth of each class in terms of athlete numbers, nations competing and competitive fields while aiming to ensure the widest spread of impairment groups across both genders. Other criteria included in the consideration was to have viable events according to the IPC Handbook and possible considerations for the groups that were not present in Rio 2016.

The confirmation of the medal events follows Tokyo 2020’s announcement regarding the Paratriathlon courses on 2 August.

The Paratriathlon course will consist of a 750m swim, 20km bike ride and 5km run and races will start and finish in Odaiba Marine Park in Tokyo Bay.  The swimming leg will take place in Odaiba Bay. The bike riding and running courses will wind their way in and around the park and will incorporate a number of technical aspects. The course will also pass through the West Promenade district of Odaiba, featuring waterfalls and greenery.

The Tokyo 2020 Paralympic Games will feature 4,400 athletes who will contest 540 medal events across 22 sports. The Games will take place between 25 August and 6 September 2020.