Lauren Parker is eyeing a third straight home-town title in the City of Newcastle Paratriathlon on Saturday and plans to use her first race in over 12 months to finetune preparations for the Toyko Paralympics.
The Australian paratriathlon team has not yet been announced but Parker is the current world champion in her classification and has done enough to qualify for the Games in August.
The Newcastle 32-year-old is aiming for gold in Tokyo and was keen to get a gauge on her progress this weekend after a lack of racing for the past year due to the global coronavirus pandemic.
"I'm really looking forward to racing in Newcastle and getting back on the start line, and I'm very proud that [event director] Paul Humphreys, H Events and the City of Newcastle can put the event on in the climate that we've got at the moment," Parker told the Newcastle Herald on Tuesday.
"There will be no international competitors, but I'll just be focusing on the process because I haven't done a triathlon in over a year.
"So I'll just be making sure I get the little things right, like transitions and practicing really for the bigger races to come later on in the year."
Parker is also trying to qualify for two hand-cycling events at the Paralympics. She raced at the Cycling Australia Road Nationals in Ballarat two weeks ago but was the sole competitor in her classification there.
On Saturday, the Novocastrian will line up against her strongest Australian rivals Emily Tapp, the former world champion, and Sara Tait. Tapp, Tait and Parker represented Australia in paratriathlon at the 2018 Commonwealth Games on the Gold Coast.
The paratriathlon will comprise a 750-metre harbour swim, 20-kilometre cycle and 5km run from Newcastle Foreshore to Newcastle beach.
The race will give Parker, who was paralysed from the waist down in a training accident in 2017, the chance to test out some new equipment and see where she is at six months out from the Paralympics.
"There's a few things I've changed," Parker said.
"For the swim, I'm trying out these swim splints which are made out of carbon. They go behind my knees to straighten my legs and I actually swim faster in those. The other athletes have been using them but I haven't until now.
"I tried them out this week and I was definitely faster over the 100 efforts that I was doing, so I'm really looking forward to trying them out in the race. But just to see how I go. I know I've improved a lot on the bike and the run."
The event is being held in Newcastle for the third time and winning both previous races on home soil has been "pretty special" for Parker.
"The first one in 2019, the first time it was held in Newcastle, was the first race that I won against Emily [Tapp], so it was a very special moment, and to have the paratriathlon here every year since makes me proud," Parker said. "I think it's the best city in the world and the best place to have it."
The paratriathlon will be on from 7am Saturday.