Michellie Jones gives Katie Kelly Olympic vision along road to Rio
13 May 2015
TRIATHLON: It could well develop into a partnership born in triathlon heaven when vision-impaired paratriathlete Katie Kelly teams up with her newly appointed guide, World Champion and Olympic silver medallist Michelle Jones in Yokohama this weekend.
Kelly will contest only her second World Paratriathlon Event (WPE) as she prepares to qualify for the sport’s debut in next year’s Paralympics in Rio de Janeiro.
The recently turned 40-year-old was born with Usher Syndrome, a rare deaf and blind degenerative condition and has only recently been formally classified as a PT5 athlete after her eye sight had deteriorated to a legally blind status.
So who better to guide you around the Paralympic sprint distance course (750m swim, 20km cycle and 5km run) than one of Australia’s most decorated triathletes and the woman who played such a major part in putting triathlon on the Olympic map with her sterling silver in Sydney in 2000.
Jones, now 45 and the reigning ITU World Champion in her age category, answered the call from Triathlon Australia’s Paratriathlon head coach Corey Bacon and will act as Kelly’s guide on what will be an exciting road they hope will see them both in Rio next year.
The two-time International Triathlon Union (ITU) World Champion (1992 and 1993), 2000 Olympic silver medallist and 2006 Hawaiian Ironman winner, is a Triathlon Australia Hall of Famer who was last year inducted into the Sport Australia Hall of Fame.
The pair will team up for the first time in the PT5 category (vision impaired athletes) before embarking on the Rio Test Event on August 1; the Detroit WPE on August 16 and the World Championships in Chicago on September 17.
In the Paratriathlon event for Vision Impaired athletes, the guide is attached to the athlete by a tether on the swim and the run, and a tandem bike is used for the cycle.
Jones, who now lives in Carisbad, California, said: “Triathlon is such an amazing sport and one which requires you to push yourself to the limits.
“I am inspired by Paratriathletes such as Katie who compete at the top level whilst overcoming some quite significant impairment challenges.
“I’m looking forward to racing again and taking part in what is sure to be an amazing event.
“I know that Katie is determined to rank in the top three so my competitive streak will certainly kick-in to help her get to the podium.”
Kelly is currently ranked number 13 in the world after two recent gold medal wins in Australia last month – the first at the WPE held at the Sunshine Coast where she recorded a world class time of 1:15:26 and the second at the National Championships at Redcliffe where she recorded a time of 1:16:59 both over the Paralympic sprint distance.
“The recent gold medal wins mean I have put myself in the frame to be selected for the first of several big races including the World Championships in Chicago to be held on 17 September this year,” said Kelly, who now resides in Canberra and trains under Bacon.
“My ultimate aim is to make the Australian Paratriathlon team for the 2016 Rio Paralympics – where the sport will make its debut on the Paralympic level.”
Bacon described his charge as world class and believes Kelly has the potential to bring home a medal from Rio in 2016.
“That potential is made even greater as she teams up with Michellie Jones as her guide,” said Bacon.
Kelly is one of six Australians on the Paralympic start line in Yokohama. Matt Brumby (VIC), Justin Godfrey (NSW), Kate Doughty (VIC), Glen Jarvis (NSW) and Emily Tapp (QLD) will join her.
Triathlon Australia’s Paralympic Program Manager, Kathryn Perriac said: “The race in Yokohama provides a valuable opportunity for some of the less experienced paratriathletes on the Australian squad to experience racing strong fields in the higher pressure atmosphere of a dual WTS/WPE race.
“There is a nice mix of world class and less experienced athletes racing in most classes, so a well-executed race by any of the Australians could result in a potential podium finish.
“Ranking points earned in Yokohama will be critical to maximising the number of Australians who get onto the start lists at the 2015 World Championships in Chicago.”