Three British athletes made their Paralympic paratriathlon debuts as ParalympicsGB featured in all four races on the first day of swim, bike, run at the Tokyo 2020 Paralympic Games.
Michael Taylor opened the paratriathlon racing at the Tokyo 2020 Paralympic Games as men’s PTS4 racing set off. Taylor followed Alexis Hanquinquant (FRA) out of the water to record the second fastest swim time and head into the first transition 29 seconds after the Frenchman.
After 00:18:19, Hanquinquant had completed his first lap of the four with Michael Taylor not far behind in 2nd place with just under two minutes between himself and Hanquinquant. Alejandro Sánchez Palomero (ESP) entered the second lap in third place.
Halfway through the cycle, the Frenchman maintained his lead position, whilst Taylor and Sánchez Palomero switched places to 3rd and 2nd respectively as the pair were separated by around thirty seconds. The race remained close as China’s Jiachao Wang and Taylor battled for the bronze position during the lap.
Hanquinquant continued his strong performance as he entered the run in 1st place. Sánchez Palomero was next into T2 with almost three minutes to make up on the race leader. Hideki Uda (JPN) rounded out the top three as the athletes entered the run. Michael Taylor wasn’t far behind, leaving transition in fifth place as part of a chase pack.
Following a fall on a corner during the run, Hanquinquant remained resilient to maintain his advantage over the field. Still the competition raced strong across the field as Uda and Sánchez Palomero pursued the race leader and worked to fight off Wang and Taylor.
The first paratriathlete to cross the line at the Tokyo 2020 Paralympic Games was Hanquinquant as he crossed the line in 00:59:58, French flag in hand. With plenty still to race for with Uda and Sánchez Palomero holding silver and bronze positions for the remainder of the race.
Wang crossed the line next to take 4th place with Antonio Franko (CRO) rounding out the top five. Michael Taylor marked his Paralympic debut with an 8th place finish.
Reflecting on his Paralympic debut, Taylor said: “The Japanese people were amazing, lots of people on the course clapping and edging me on. It was a really nice and the Japanese people and Tokyo have put on an amazing event and I’m so glad I made it.
“It’s been an incredible opportunity and I’d like to thank British Triathlon, National Lottery, all the performance centres in Bristol, Bath, Cardiff, Loughborough and my friends and family as their support over the season has been amazing from day one when I lost my leg it was overwhelming, and the amount of support has been incredible.”
Setting off soon after Taylor was Fran Brown in the women’s PTS2 race. Japan’s Hata Yukako led from the start as she raced on home soil, exiting the water in first place as she transitioned to the bike. Britain’s Fran Brown entered T1 in 6th place with a minute between her and the race leader.
The first bike lap was completed in 00:23:06 by American Hailey Danz as Fran Brown followed in 4th place, half a minute away from the American. Brown pushed hard in the second lap and rose to 2nd place as she surged ahead of Veronica Yoko Plebani (ITA) and Allysa Seely (USA). The beginning of the 3rd lap revealed Brown’s efforts had put her twelve seconds away from Danz in 1st.
It seemed only a matter of time before Brown passed the American and with the end of the bike course in sight, Brown made her move, overtaking Danz to lead the race for the first time. Danz stayed in pursuit of Brown and overtook the Brit on the final lap of the cycle.
After trading places on the bike, the final leg of the swim, bike, run was set for fireworks. Danz entered the final transition in first with Brown eleven seconds behind. Plebani joined Danz and Brown on the run.
After maintaining 2nd place, Brown slowed towards the end of the first lap before pushing hard again to stay in silver medal position. Danz and Seely were the two in front as the runners entered the third lap. Plebani then joined the Americans on the third lap as Seely took the lead from her compatriot.
This form continued to the finish, seeing Seely defend her Paralympic title and take the tape in 01:14:03. Danz and Plebani joined Seely across the line to complete the podium positions. After powering through the run, Brown was the next athlete across the line, marking her Paralympic debut with a 4th place finish.
Following her 4th place finish, Brown said: “It was a really good race. Obviously for me over the last year, I've had a load of health issues, so making the start line was a mission and that was my dream, so I did that and making the finish was even better.
“I would have loved a medal and I think couple of years ago, I would have been in the shape to have a medal and it’s there again in the future but for now, making the start was my goal and I did that, and I nailed the race sensibly.
“I couldn’t have asked for more on the day I did the best I could in the shape I'm in and it is what it is. It's been a team effort to get here and there's been times where it really felt like I wouldn't. So, my goal was to make my Paralympics and I've done that.”
Susana Rodriguez (ESP), Jessica Tuomela (CAN) and Anna Barbaro (ITA) were the first three out of the water in the women’s PTVI racing. The Brits swam well, pursuing the race leaders who began the swim earlier, Reid left the water in 6th and Peasgood 8th.
Lap one of the bike was completed by Rodriguez first, closely followed by Tuomela who was 21 seconds down. Barbaro maintained her third-place position heading into the second lap half a minute off the race leader.
Moving into the third lap, the Brits were moving up the field as Peasgood occupied 5th and Reid 6th. The pair set their sights on Annouck Curzillat (FRA) in 4th as they pushed hard on the second half of the cycle.
Rodriguez remained dominant throughout the cycle, leading onto the run whilst still being chased down by Tuomela in 2nd place and Barbaro 3rd. Peasgood steadily made progress through the run field to put herself in 4th place with her eyes on the bronze medal position.
Rodriguez secured gold after a strong run, Barbaro followed to take silver and a dramatic sprint finish saw Peasgood give everything in pursuit of the bronze medal, however, Curzillat held out her advantage to reach the podium with Peasgood taking 4th place. Peasgood’s compatriot, Reid crossed the line in 7th place ahead of Elizabeth Baker (USA).
Peasgood said: “I tried to really pace the run and not get carried away when people kept telling us we were catching because it's so hot out there and at Rio I struggled on the run so, I wanted to keep to my own race.”
Bartlett added: “You’ve just got to keep the belief, you never know what's going to happen on the finish line, someone could trip and that was actually a thing in Rio so, you just have to keep digging into the line that you don’t know what’s going to happen at any point in the race. So, I fully believed all the way around.
“All you can ask is to give what you have on the day and we gave everything we had on the race day today.