The World Triathlon Para Championships opened the finals of the 2022 Championships in Abu Dhabi on Thursday morning at the Yas Bay Waterfront, with twelve titles awarded in the six categories for men and women.
With water and air temperatures in excess of 20 degrees and a new course, race direction was always crucial and there were familiar faces who used all their experience to take gold as the visually impaired and wheelchair classes took over the day-to-day action en route. You can watch all the action on demand at TriathlonLive.tv.
It was Susana Rodriguez B1 with another unbeatable performance in the opening race of the PTVI, albeit by a far smaller margin than 12 months ago, as newcomer Francesco Tarantello B3 put together the day’s fastest run split to build some late pressure. The Italian, of course, phased out but was delighted with her first World Championship silver, Alison Peasgood B2 with an emotional third place in the ‘For George’ shirts worn by the British team in support of her brother-in-law George who suffered serious injuries in a cycling accident in October.
“I’m very happy with our race, especially considering how the last few months have gone for me,” said Rodriguez. “We also had a small crash during the acclimatization yesterday and I was a bit scared today because I wasn’t very confident, but I’m very happy. I really enjoyed the race, it was very technical and fast and I struggled with the heat in a few places but thanks to my guide Sara she pushed me all the way. She is not only my guide, but also my mental coach.”
In the men’s race, Dave Ellis B3 ran to gold and successfully defended his world title alongside guide Luke Ellis. Thibaut Rigaudeau B2 was clearly enjoying his first World Championships setting the early pace, but once Ellis found his groove there was no stopping him from defending the title he won last year. Antoine Perel B1 crossed the finish line third behind Rigaudeau, setting up a good day for the French.
“It was a really fast bike for everyone,” said a smiling Ellis. “Luckily we came out at the front and were able to put on a good run. The heat was manageable, we just needed to pick up the pace but we have some good medal chances out here today and we want to win some.”
Lauren Parker H1 was once again the star of the women’s wheelchair race, overcoming technical issues on the bike that cost her nearly a minute over the field but thankfully not her title chances. Paralympic Champion Kendall Gretsch H2 was again lightning fast in transition and blasted hard through the final segment but failed to catch the Australian like she did in Tokyo, Parker winning by 25 seconds over the American and last year’s runner-up Jessica Ferreira H1 of Brazil third at home.
“Today was a tough day, I didn’t have the best preparation but had to stay positive, had a few issues with my shifting on the first lap but had a spare battery so don’t panic I just swapped it out but it has me Took some time just glad I had a spare. I did Kona five weeks ago but recovered well and was able to do it! I love a technical course, wish it was a bit hillier out there but it’s a great surface, you really couldn’t ask for a better course.”
The men’s race was another master class for Dutchman Jetze Plat H2 as he added another season to his remarkable winning streak. The Dutchman pulled away from the field over the 750m swim, Florian Brungraber H2 (AUT) tried not to lose too much ground and quickly switched to the 20km handbike, but Plat couldn’t be caught. It should be an excellent Silver for the Austrian as he was able to keep Geert Schipper H2 (NED) in check and reverse their positions from 2021 onwards.
“It was a good swim, a little slower than normal, but I’ve been working in a wheelchair a lot the past few months, so I knew that was going to be a good part,” said a happy Plat after the race. “It was a technical circuit with small corners and bumps, so you have to concentrate on every second, you have to be sharp in the corners. I’ve had three big marathons in the last few months so I’ve improved in the wheelchair and I’m definitely happy with that performance.”