Newcastle’s annual Sparke Helmore event will have a new and international flavour next year with the city’s first paratriathlon being added to the bill.
Novocastrian wheelchair athlete Lauren Parker will headline the maiden race and is expected to be joined by several overseas competitors, who may already heading to Australia for the ITU Paratriathlon World Cup event in Davenport.
The 2019 Sparke Helmore City Triathlon has been scheduled for Sunday, February 24, with the Tasmanian race to follow on Saturday, March 2.
Parker has already been in conversation with event organiser Paul Humphreys about the course, which will entail a 750 metre swim in Newcastle Harbour, a 20 kilometre cycle looping through King Edward Park and a 5km run along Honeysuckle.
The transition zone remains near Queens Wharf.
Triathlon Australia have approved the race and will be inspecting the site on Tuesday.
“Over the 25 years of this event we have doubled as state championships and world qualifiers for various age groups, so it’s nice that Triathlon Australia recognises the race as good enough to hold an international level paratriathlon,” Humphreys told the Newcastle Herald.
Humphreys thought this year’s Commonwealth Games on the Gold Coast, which was the world’s largest, integrated multi-sport event, represented a significant moment for not only paratriathlon but all disabled athletes.
“This will be the feature event,” Humphreys said. “We will run the paratriathlon last and hopefully everyone else will hang around to watch the finish. You could end up with 2000 people there.”
Parker’s coach Brad Fernley hopes the inaugural Sparke Helmore paratriathlon will be the “start of something bigger and better”.
Commonwealth Games and World Championship medalist Parker, who was left paralysed from the waist down after a training accident in April last year, has claimed back-to-back state awards in the last month.
Parker, who turns 30 next weekend, received the Ian Thorpe Outstanding Achievement prize from NSWIS before being named the Sport NSW athlete of the year with a disability.
The official charity of the Sparke Helmore City Triathlon will again be the Lauren Parker Foundation.
Meanwhile, the ITU announced late last week the qualification criteria for the 2020 Tokyo Paralympics with a 12-month period starting on June 29 next year.
The 2019 World Championships in Lausanne, ITU World Paratriathlon Series events, ITU Paratriathlon Continental Championships and ITU Paratriathlon World Cups all carry points.
The ITU also announced an increase in paratriathlon events for 2019 with Milano, Italy, hosting a maiden series event on April 27 and Magog, Canada, welcoming a World Cup return on July 13 and 14.