By Tom Degun

Yannick Bourseaux_20-10-12October 20 - Exactly 109 athletes from 21 different countries are set to compete in the 2012 International Triathlon Union (ITU) Paratriathlon World Championships in Auckland, New Zealand next week as the sport steps up preparations for its Paralympic Games debut at Rio 2016.

The prestigious event, which starts in New Zealand on Monday (October 22), will feature a 750 metre swim, 20 kilometre bike and 5km run across six different men's and women's classifications, starting and finishing at Queen's Wharf in Auckland.

"Getting Paratriathlon into the Paralympic Games for Rio 2016 has been one of our biggest achievements in the last four years," ITU President Marisol Casado told insidethegames.

"Making the event a success in Rio is now one of our biggest challenges and events like the Paratriathlon World Championships will help increase interest as we head towards Brazil."

At the event, athletes are classified based on how able they are to perform the three different disciplines.

The TRI-1 class is for wheelchair users, TRI-2 for those with severe leg impairment, TRI-3 for les autres, TRI-4 for those with an arm impairment, TRI-5 for those with a moderate leg impairment and TRI-6 for those with a visual impairment.

Britain and the United States will have the most athletes at the Championships, as 15 Britons and 31 Americans will take part.

Last year, Britain won nine medals in total at the event, with USA taking home eight.

In total, four reigning world champions will represent the British this year, including Charlotte Ellis and Faye McClelland, who won the women's TRI-4 and TRI-6 European titles, respectively, earlier this season.

Britain's Jane Egan will be the favourite in the women's TRI-1 class as she tries to defend her title, while her compatriot Steve Judge aims to repeat as the men's TRI-3 champion.

Melissa StockwellAmerican Melissa Stockwell, an Iraq war veteran, will be looking look to defend her TRI-2 world title for the third consecutive year in Auckland

Meanwhile, American Melissa Stockwell, an Iraq war veteran who competed in swimming at the Beijing 2008 Paralympics, will look to defend her TRI-2 world title for the third consecutive year.

Her teammate Dannielle McLaughlin, hopes to repeat as the TRI-5 world champion.

Elsewhere, France's Yannick Bourseaux (pictured top), also training to compete in cross-country skiing and biathlon at the Sochi 2014 Winter Paralympics, will be one to watch in the men's TRI-4 class, as the former able-bodied triathlete will try to pick up another world title as a Paratriathlete.

But he will have to outshine 2010 world champion Peter Boronkay of Hungary to do so.

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