Para triathlon, a competitive sport

Para triathlon events have been included in the International Triathlon Union (ITU) World Championships since 1997. 

British Triathlon held its’ first Paratriathlon National Championships in 2008.

Para triathlon, a Paralympic sport

As far back as 2001 the ITU were promoting the competitive category, known at the time as Athletes With A Disability (AWAD), in the hope of having duathlon (running and cycling in three stages, run, bike, run) in the Paralympics.

This changed in 2004 with the establishment of an AWAD Commission tasked with creating a strategy to establish Triathlon as a Paralympic sport. This included, developing disability classifications to meet Paralympic standards, establishing regional AWAD championships to encourage more countries to participate and adopting International Paralympic Committee (IPC) requirements for inclusion of a sport in the Paralympics.

In 2008 the ITU Congress officially changed the name to para triathlon and they were working towards inclusion in the 2016 Games with the IPC.  

Having applied to the IPC in 2009, in 2010 it was confirmed that it would debut at the Rio 2016 Paralympic Games.

Rules of para triathlon

In 2014 the number of sport classes were reduced from seven to five. 

  • PT1 - Wheelchair users. This includes athletes with comparable activity limitation and an impairment of, but not limited to:  muscle power, limb deficiency, hypertonia, ataxia, athetosis that prevent the ability to safely ride a conventional bike and run.  Athletes undergo assessment and must have a score of up to 640,0 points. Athletes must use a recumbent handcycle on the bike course and a racing wheelchair on the run segment. 
  • PT2 - Which includes athletes with comparable activity limitation and an impairment of, but not limited to, limb deficiency, hypertonia, ataxia and or athetosis, impaired muscle power or range of movement. Again, this is assessed and athletes must have a score of up to 454, 9 points. In both bike and run segments, amputee athletes have the option to use approved prosthesis or other supportive devices. 
  • PT3 - This includes athletes with comparable activity limitation and an impairment of, but not limited to, limb deficiency, hypertonia, ataxia and or athetosis, impaired muscle power or range of movement. They need to go through classification assessment and to have a score from 455,0 to 494,9 points. In both bike and run segments, amputee athletes have the option to use approved prosthesis or other supportive devices. 
  • PT4 - This includes athletes with comparable activity limitation and an impairment of, but not limited to, limb deficiency, hypertonia, ataxia and or athetosis, impaired muscle power or range of movement. They need to go through classification assessment and have a score from 495,0 to 557,0 points included. In both bike and run segments, amputee athletes have the option to use approved prosthesis or other supportive devices. 
  • PT5 - Total or Partial visual Impairment (International Blind Sports Federation (IBSA)/International Paralympic Committee (IPC) defined sub-classes B1, B2, and B3): This includes athletes who are totally blind, ranging from no light perception in either eye, to partial light perception but unable to recognize the shape of a hand at any distance or in any direction (B1) and partially sighted athletes with a visual acuity of less than 6/60 vision or visual field less than 20 degrees with best corrective vision (B2-B3). Furthermore, a guide from the same nationality and gender is compulsory throughout the race. Additionally, they must ride a tandem during the bike segment.

Competition is over a course of 750m of swimming, 20 km of cycling and 5km of running.

Some athletes with varying levels of impairment need different support levels when leaving the water and before reaching the transition area -

  • Swim-exit handlers assist the athletes upon swim exit depending on the swim cap colour, for example, providing full lifting (red swim cap) or support assistance (yellow swim cap). There is a designated pre-transition area for athletes to collect their devices needed to compete (PT2 to PT4) or access their daily wheelchairs and be stripped by their handlers if needed (PT1).
  • Athletes can use conventional bikes if they have approved adaptations (PT2 and PT4 classes), a tandem (PT5) or handcycle (PT1).
  • The final section of the sport is a 5 km run, athletes can choose to complete the race in racing wheelchairs (PT1), running with or without support of assistive devices (PT2 – PT4) or alongside with their guides (PT5).
  • In the PT5 sport class, totally blind female athletes (B1) have the entitlement of a staggered start system. B1 athletes start 3’48’’ ahead of the rest of the field in PT5. Visually impaired athletes compete with their guides, who must be with them throughout the entire race and be from the same nation and gender.

Governing bodies

Founded in 1989, the International Triathlon Union (ITU) is the world governing body for triathlon, para triathlon and related multisports and disciplines.

The British Triathlon Federation is the governing body in the UK.

Regional clubs

The BPA have created an online directory, Parasport, where you can search for and find out about sport and physical activity in your area.

The GO TRI programme runs Disability Novice Training Days, regional contacts can be found here, with more detailed information on the GO TRI website. 

The British Triathlon events list, found here, can be searched for those which are ‘Suitable for Para-tri’. 

England
Local clubs can be found here.

Scotland
Local clubs can be found here or at Triathlon Scotland.

Wales
Local clubs can be found here

Northern Ireland
Local clubs can be found through Disability Sport NI or through Triathlon Ireland, the National Governing Body for the sport across the island of Ireland.

References
https://www.britishtriathlon.org/gb-teams/performance/paratriathlon/performance
https://www.triathlon.org/news/article/paratriathlon_101_everything_you_need_to_know
https://www.paralympicheritage.org.uk/triathlon
https://www.triathlon.org/
http://www.triathlon.org.au/Para_Tri/Paralympic_Games.htm
https://m.paralympic.org/sites/default/files/magazine/120202183757250_WEB_Paralympian_01_2011.pdf
https://www.triathlon.org/uploads/docs/ituafl_congress-minutes-2001_1.pdf
https://www.triathlon.org/uploads/docs/ituafl_congress-minutes-2004.pdf
https://www.triathlon.org/uploads/docs/ituafl_congress-minutes-2005.pdf
https://www.triathlon.org/uploads/docs/ituafl_congress-minutes-2008.pdf
https://www.triathlon.org/uploads/docs/congress2009-minutes.pdf
https://www.triathlon.org/uploads/docs/2011-congress-minutes-16052012.pdf