I checked out the women’s paralympic triathlon & couldn’t help but write about it. These women are so inspirational, they are beyond description, but I’ll give it a try. I’ve done a lot of sprint triathlons in my day, but I haven’t overcome a fraction of what these women have. What I saw today blew me away.
Let’s start with the swim. The 1st race was for women who are physically challenged, so swimming with 1 arm or 1 leg is difficult, but do-able. The tough part is getting in & out of the water, so they had helpers get racers to their prosthetics coming out of the water. The 2nd race was for blind racers, so they had to do the whole race, swim included, tethered to a guide. That has got to be tough.
Then they move to the bike. This portion probably has the fewest differences between Olympic & Paralympic athletes for the physically-challenged. However, the blind racers rode on tandem bikes, so a strong guide could be a big advantage.
In the run, we get to the hard part. We have a long way to go to get prosthetics to work well. I don’t know how Oscar Pretorius did it-the prosthetics these women used didn’t allow them to run anything like a normal runner. Their gaits were very unbalanced, which puts lots of strain on the leg that does function normally. The breakdown over time must be very difficult to deal with & they must suffer from overuse injuries galore.
There was 1 runner who stuck out to me: Rakel Mateo Uriarte of Spain. She came in dead last @ 1:40:33-the distances were shortened from the “Olympic” distance, so this was essentially a sprint triathlon-but she was still a winner to me because she was the only athlete who had the impairment she did. The International Triathlon Union says she was in an accident in 2001 which left her left leg paralyzed. She hadn’t participated in triathlon before her accident, but picked it up to keep moving. I didn’t see her come out of the water on the swim, but the result of her challenge was that she couldn’t pedal the bike with both legs, which meant she had to pedal the whole race with just her right leg. To top it off, she did the whole run on crutches…& she did the race in about the same time I do my sprint triathlons. Granted I’m a slow old man, but completing races with her challenges blows my mind. The mental fortitude this woman must have must be incredible. I can’t imagine the strength & endurance she must have to complete these races.
The USA did well. American Grace Norman won the PT4 race. The Americans swept the PT2 race, with Alyssa Seely winning the gold, Hailey Danisewicz taking the silver, & Melissa Stockwell bringing home the bronze. The PT5 race was a heartbreaker for American Elizabeth Baker, who came so close to earning a medal, but just fell short, literally. She came out of the water 6th, then moved up to 4th on the bike. Then on the run, with 100 meters to go, she had pulled into 3rd place, primed for a bronze medal, but then the Brit Melissa Reid overtook her, when Elizabeth unceremoniously fell, sealing her 4th place finish in the race, after Reid. She might not have known that Reid was catching up on her. She couldn’t see her because she’s blind, but I would bet her guide was keeping her fully informed along the way. My heart goes out to her, & falling was the final indignity, but their exciting finish got the most applause of the day.
I realize these paralympic races are fodder for platitudes, but in this case, I think the praise is warranted. I do these races, so I know how hard they are. I can recognize the difficulties they must overcome to compete at the level they do. These women have inspired me & I’ll keep their challenges in mind when I start to bitch & moan about my next race almost a month from now in October.