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Sarah Reinertsen won gold in the women's TRI-2 division in London.
Sarah Reinertsen won gold in the women's TRI-2 division in London.
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Three Paratriathletes Represent the U.S. in London Event

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While a number of U.S. paratriathletes turned in stellar performances in New York City on August 7, there were three athletes — Tommy Knapp, Sarah Reinertsen and JP Theberge — making their marks on the world’s stage in a paratriathlon event in London. Held in conjunction with the London World Championship Series event, 49 paratriathletes representing 12 countries competed in six categories. 

Unlike domestic paratriathlon events, this race exposed U.S. athletes to international competition. “It is really great racing against the best of each country and getting challenged by athletes that you aren't as familiar with,” said Theberge, who won the men’s TRI-5 division. “I also enjoy the international camaraderie and rivalry we have. There is great sportsmanship and athleticism not to mention some amazing stories by people who have overcome tremendous challenges.”

Athletes competed on a course similar to the one that will be used next year in the London Olympic Games, with the swim in the Serpentine and bike and run in Hyde Park. The race was a sprint including a 750-meter swim, a 20-kilometer bike and a 5-kilometer run. 

“The British Triathlon Federation and ITU really put on a spectacular event,” said Reinertsen, who was the champion of the women’s TRI-2 division. “It was so professionally done, and it felt like we were racing like the pros — complete with the elite style transitions with the stands and gear boxes.  I have competed internationally before, but this London race was particularly exciting since it was on the Olympic course.”

Because so many athletes from different countries and backgrounds were in attendance in London, there were plenty of opportunities to share stories and make new friendships. “The competition was at the highest level,” said Knapp, TRI-4 bronze medalist. “The racing was fierce, but the camaraderie before and after the race was very special.  Sharing racing and training tips, talking about issues and how you work through the problems, dealing with communication issues.  It was all part of the international flavor of the race.” 

Paratriathlon participation is booming following the December 2010 announcement that the sport will be included in the Paralympic Games beginning in 2016 in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.

“I have seen the sport of triathlon really grow in the U.S., especially the paratriathlon division,” Reinertsen said. “The international scene is also growing quite strong, and I believe its popularity will only increase now that there is an event in the Paralympics.” 

The three American athletes all noticed that in addition to more athlete participation, national federations and sponsors are jumping at the chance to support this fast-growing movement. In 2010, the paratriathlon event held at the London WCS race was the largest of its kind in Europe.

“I'm already starting to see more athletes participating in triathlon from more countries — Morocco, Latvia, Brazil, Argentina, Egypt and more,” said Theberge, a three-time London competitor. “After all, disability knows no boundaries. I'm expecting to see much more talent in the years to come.” 

With the 2011 ITU Paratriathlon World Championships less than one month away, athletes are now turning their focus to Beijing and world titles. However, they won’t soon forget what they experienced in London.

“London was a great showcase for all athletes,” Knapp said. “I learned that the support from countries around the world has really helped increase the awareness and level of competition.  With that being said, in the future there will be a lot of outstanding young, motivated and talented challenged athletes doing amazing things.”

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