As you’re enjoying the Paralympic Triathlon events this weekend, you’ll see that there are the letters PT and a number alongside each athlete. The letters, unsurprisingly stand for Para Triathlon and you’ll see that other sports are represented in the same way, in athletics there will be a ‘T’ for track or ‘F’ for field and in swimming, it’s the letter… go on, take a guess!
The numbers are then related to the impact the athlete’s impairment has on their ability to compete in triathlon. Rather than getting caught up in which numbers mean what, the important thing to remember is that the classification group is designed to create a fair competition. Each athlete’s impairment impacts differently depending on the sport that they compete in. This is why each sport has a different classification system; for example, a leg amputee will have different challenges if they are running or they are weightlifting. The impact the impairment has on that particular sport is completely different so the classification needs to be different to ensure fairness.
To use an analogy from boxing, it would be inconceivable to see a featherweight fighting a heavyweight. Their individual athleticism is not in question, but their body structure determines the class in which they fight. That’s all Paralympic Classification does, ensures fairness based on the athlete’s body structure.
Rio 2016 will see Para Triathlon in the programme for the first time with the men’s race on Saturday 10th September and the women’s race on Sunday 11th September. The athletes will be racing over a 750m swim, 20km bike and 5km run and there will be winners within each classification. You’ll notice that some athletes are eligible for support in transition or have prosthetic aids. This is to ensure fair competition due to the impact their impairment has on the sport. For example, Lauren Steadman uses a prosthetic arm on the bike, but does not need it for the run.
In the cycling section of the race, you will see athletes competing using tandems, handcycles or bicycles and in the run section, racing wheelchairs can be used. Athletes with a visual impairment race with a guide.
When you’re watching the races, you’ll see that some of the classification groups are missing. That’s simply because that event is not yet competitive enough to be featured in the Games. There has to be a large number of athletes competing around the world to ensure true competition at this level and in some classification groups, this is still developing.
Men, Saturday September 10th
PT4 – 10am
PT2 – 10:03am
PT1 – 11:20am
Women, Sunday September 11th
PT4 – 10am
PT2 – 10:03am
PT5 – 11:35 & 11:38am** Please note this has changed in recent days from 11:20 to 11:35
For more information about the history of Paratriathlon, the rules, classification and equipment involved, here’s a video from the International Paralympic Committee: