By Tom Degun

ParatriathlonApril 17 - The Australia Paralympic Committee (APC) has turned its focus to the sport of Paratriathlon with the first Triathlon Australia and APC seminar about the discipline held in Sydney.

The International Paralympic Committee (IPC) Governing Board decided at its meeting in Guangzhou in 2010 to include the sport on the Paralympic programme – it will make its debut at the Rio 2016 Games.

Australia has already demonstrated its intention to secure medals in paratriathlon (pictured top) by arranging the seminar at which participants included medical specialists, classifiers from current Paralympic sports, sports administration staff, coaches and APC staff.

The seminar offered an overview on the history of paratriathlon as well as background on the International Triathlon Union (ITU) classification system and rules, and a presentation led by ITU head of Paratriathlon Classification Marguerite Christophers.

The seminar is expected to be the first of many as Triathlon Australia and the APC start work together ahead of Rio 2016.

APC classification manager Genevieve McMahon said the seminar would act as the launchpad for the sport in Australia.

"This [seminar] provides us with a really important opportunity for us to get the key people in the room and work out what are the next steps for us," she said.

Murray Hilder, the chairman of Triathlon Australia's Paratriathlon Committee, said his organisation is committed to both making paratriathlon a viable option for all athletes with a disability and honouring Australia's triathlon legacy and strong Paralympic history.

"In Paralympic sports in general, Australia has a very successful history –we need to ensure we continue with that tradition," said Hilder.

"Triathlon in Australia is also a very popular sport and we've had a lot of success so, as a national federation, we need to carry that tradition across to paratriathlon.

"We're confident we can do it, but we need to do it right."

Triathlon Australia's Paratriathlon Committee, formed in October 2011, boasts Hilder, Anne Gripper, Michael Hartung, Alex Fehon, Jacqui Kenny, Michael Flynn and two legendary Australian Paralympic athletes, Lindy Hou and Michael Milton.

Lindy Hou
Hou (pictured above, at rear), 52, who has a degenerative eye condition and has been classified blind since 1996, is a former cyclist – she won a women's sprint tandem gold medal at the Athens 2004 Paralympic Games – triathlete and coach.

Milton, a 38-year-old leg amputee, is Australia's fastest-ever disabled skier and a six-times Paralympics champion between 1992 and 2004.

He switched to cycling and made his Summer Paralympics debut at Beijing 2008 and allso competed in the 2011 Paratriathlon World Championships in Beijing.

Milton said he said the seminar confirmed to him that Paratriathlon has untapped potential worldwide.

"This is because of its participation base," he said.

"So many sports for athletes with disabilities have a reverse structure, whereby the majority of athletes are elite and you don't have any participation base.

"One of the things that really hit me was that there are 43 countries with a thousand athletes competing in paratriathlon."

Milton said his advice to athletes looking to try Paratriathlon was that it would be challenging but hugely worthwhile.

"As an athlete, I love riding my bike," he said.

"I was a competitive swimmer up until 15 and I'm enjoying getting back into running.

"I love challenging myself and paratriathlon offers those disciplines to an individual athlete.

"There is so much variety, the chance to do a sprint-distance race or stretch yourself and go longer."

He concluded: "It's an immense challenge, but an extremely rewarding experience."

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