Paralympic champ searching for third ITU world title
Australia’s golden girl, Casino born Paralympic champion Katie Kelly is hopeful her Gold Coast supporter base and home ground advantage will be the secret weapon that she, and guide Holly Grice, can use to help secure her third ITU Paratriathlon World Championship in the PTVI category.
“The world champs rotate in cities all around the world so to actually have one in your home city where you train and where you have a lot of friends and family is a once in a lifetime opportunity,” Katie said. “To even make a world championship is hard enough let alone make the team for one that happens to be on your home turf. I am very excited, it is going to be great.”
Katie is now training with Gold Coast coach Dan Atkins and she believes the positivity and consistency of this training environment has been instrumental in taking her to new levels as an athlete.
“Since I joined the Dan’s group with Matt Hauser, Kye Wylde, Brandon Copeland, Jaz and Kira Hedgeland among others I think I have taken a step up in my approach to training and as an athlete. I am better at knowing what it takes to be a high-performance athlete and to train and put together consistent blocks. The outcome is that I am a much stronger athlete than I ever have been and better prepared at this time of the year.”
Katie comes into the ITU World Triathlon Grand Final (12-16 September) in great form and with renewed passion for racing, off the back of a win (with guide Briarna Silk) at the ITU Lausanne World Cup. However, with Silk racing as an individual in the World Championships, Katie will team up for this campaign with talented young Queenslander Holly Grice as her guide.
“I have two guides, Briarna and Holly which is fantastic. The main drive behind two Guides was two fold. It’s a big commitment for one person and having two Guides, who live locally, allows me more opportunity for tandem training rather than relentless hours on the wind trainer and more open water training, as I obviously can’t swim solo. My coach and the Queensland Academy of Sport had the idea of two guides, Holly Grice who is been on the Triathlon Australia development program and Briarna Silk an outstanding athlete who is competing at the Worlds as an age grouper in 30-34.”
“I have trained with both of them over the winter and I have so much admiration for Holly and Briarna who are willing to put aside their own training commitments and racing to help me. We have a wonderful team and I get to train more often with a guide out on the tandem and doing more open water swims. There is a real skill in getting in sync with someone else and that consistency has really helped me.”
The Gold Coast is Katie’s third ITU World Championship campaign, having competed and won previously with Australian triathlon legend and Paralympic gold medal guide Michellie Jones in Chicago in 2015 and Rotterdam in 2017.
“I never think about how many titles I have won because we all know how hard triathlon is and anything can happen in a race. You just never take anything for granted. It is hard enough just to get to the start line. I am always happy to get to the start line of one of these major events and from then it is just about breaking it down into the components of the race and see what happens. It sounds a bit cliched but it is always about staying in the moment, the here and now.”
“I am so excited that I will have about 40 friends, family and my sponsors the PICA Group and Harvey Norman who have come on board to continue their support for me all the way to Tokyo. Their support enables me to invest more time to develop my foundation, Sport Access Foundation that provides grants for children with a disability to play sport. Having everyone there is something I really embrace, it is a real celebration. I have to get the job done obviously but it is important that I also enjoy it.”
“The one person in particular that I am so excited that will be watching at the Gold Coast is my nine year old little mate Ruby. Ruby is now blind due to aggressive form of acute lymphoblastic leukaemia which nearly took her life. She survived, but it left her completely without sight. I met up with Rubes after Rio, as she had been following my Paratriathlon races. She shows the way for all of us. I love her determination and little spirit. She did her first triathlon at Huskisson this year and used some tethers I got for her from the US. That for me will be the biggest buzz – to see her on race day.”
Katie said she will also feed off the waves of energy coming from the crowds lining the stunning Gold Coast course and witnessing firsthand the exceptional talent and passion of the Paratriathletes from across the globe.
“To get the extra one or two percent you feed off the crowd and embrace it and use it. It helps you lift, particularly in the run. That is something I will be wanting to tap into, feeling the energy and support of the home crowd.”
“The World Champs is the opportunity for everyone to see six classes of Paratri from the wheelchair class through to vision impaired. I truly believe that Paratri is the pinnacle of Paralympic sport. What other sport has three legs and includes so many classes? It says so much about the sport’s ability to include and embrace everyone of all various abilities. It is a fantastic spectacle and I encourage everyone to come out and see it for themselves.”
For the moment Katie’s focus is totally on her event on 15 September but as the current Paralympic champion she is also keen to defend her title in Tokyo in 2020.
“There is the opportunity to go to Tokyo because my class (PTVI) has been included and it would be incredible. I am not getting any younger, so I would love to be there and it would be an absolute honour to represent Australia again at the Paralympics. But for me I just need to get to the start line on for this World Champs and then we take it one campaign at a time,” she said.
It’s time to gear up for World Triathlon action Queensland, Australia, as triathletes, sports fans and the wider community ride the wave to the World Triathlon Grand Final start line.
The Elite races will be streamed to members with a subscription to https://triathlonlive.tv/live
Text and feature image: Noel McMahon | IRONMAN (Oceania)