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Talking Tokyo: a throwback to Rio

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With day one of the paratriathlon at Tokyo 2020 Paralympic Games due to take place today, we’ve spoken with British Triathlon’s Head of Paratriathlon about the sport’s Games debut in Rio four years ago and lessons learned ahead of Tokyo.

“I’ve been reflecting on Rio a lot during lockdown,” said Jonathon Riall, Head of Paratriathlon at British Triathlon. “I don’t think I appreciated at the time what a monumental moment that was for the sport.

“When you’re so deep in the practicalities, I don’t think you take stock of what a special moment it was and having it taken away this year has really allowed me to look back on it.

“There’s no event that comes close to the profile of the Paralympics for sports or individuals, so the first one will always have a special place in my heart and the team’s journey.”

With the sport making it’s debut in Rio, the last four years have been focussed on what was learned from that first Games in preparation for Tokyo, as well as looking at the challenges the team will face.

“After the first Games, you look back and there’s a lot you probably look to do differently and that’s what this cycle has been about,” commented Riall. “The first meeting was a month after we got back Rio, and we basically started four years of planning straight away.

“Having 2020 taken away definitely highlights what special moments Paralympic Games are because suddenly there’s a pause that isn’t normally there.

“Usually you roll straight into the Games cycle and are planning for the one after that, so this break has really allowed us to properly that first Games experience and what it’s meant for the sport.”

Above: Joe Townsend Reflects on Rio Games.

With the Paralympics being pushed back to 2021, there will be opportunities and challenges ahead for Riall and the ParalympicsGB paratriathletes as plans are put in place to help athletes perform at their best.

“Competing in top-level sport at the height of summer is always going to bring challenges,” Riall added. “The heat and humidity in Tokyo is one that was very plain for people to see, but especially when you bring together a team of people with varying disabilities.

“We have a team of athletes who understand the tasks and magnitude of what it means to build up to a major event because they’ve done it in Rio and World Championships over the past four years.

“However the Games looks next year, it’ll be an incredibly special moment for everybody. Having this extra year will allow staff and athletes to take stock and look at what else we can learn to help prepare our athletes for their races.

“Our preparation will continue and our athletes will continue to develop, and we’re just going to keep chipping away to try and be at our best next year.”

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