Six U.S. paratriathletes provisionally qualify for Paralympic Games

By USA Triathlon | Aug. 02, 2015, 8:22 a.m. (ET)


Patricia Walsh racing to a third place finish in Rio.

RIO DE JANEIRO - Six U.S. paratriathletes met the qualification standards to provisionally secure the first spots on the 2016 U.S. Paralympic Triathlon Team on Saturday at Copacabana Beach.

Krige Schabort (PT1, Rome, Ga.), Mark Barr (PT2, Houston, Texas), Hailey Danisewicz (PT2, Chicago, Ill.), Chris Hammer (PT4, Salt Lake City, Utah), Grace Norman (PT4, Jamestown, Ohio) and Patricia Walsh (Austin, Texas) all finished as the top American in their respective sport classes, while also meeting the requirement to be within the top one-third of race starters in each sport class and within 5 percent of the winner's time.

These individual spots are pending the availability of National Federation quota spots will be confirmed by winning performances in Chicago next month, as well as the rankings as of June 30, 2016. The confirmed U.S. Paralympic Triathlon Team will be officially named shortly thereafter. A maximum of two athletes per sport class (men's PT1, PT2 and PT4; women's PT2, PT4, PT5) may earn spots for their country, for a possible team size of 12.

Danisewicz led the way for the Americans, clinching the win in the women's PT2 (severe impairment) sport class on the 750-meter swim, 20-kilometer bike, 5-kilometer run course. Her time of 1 hour, 24 minutes, 37 seconds, including a blazing-fast bike leg, secured the win and the provisional qualification. Danisewicz's Dare2tri teammate Melissa Stockwell (Chicago, Ill.) clocked in at 1:26:25, and Allysa Seely (Glendale, Ariz.) rounded out the podium in 1:28:25.

"Just being able to see the course, I think that's going to be huge for next year," Danisewicz said. "It's so exciting and I'm honored to be one of the pioneers in the sport. I think all of us are so lucky to be able to do that. Rio's been awesome. Great food, great people, really awesome hospitality - it's really surpassed all my expectations. It makes me even more excited for next year."

Schabort overcame a deficit of over 1 minute at the second transition to claim the silver medal in the men's PT1 (wheelchair) sport class. His time of 59:57 was only 16 seconds behind race winner Bill Chaffey of Australia, and his run leg of 12:11 was the second-fastest among the PT1 men. Gaert Schipper of the Netherlands was third in 1:00:04.

"It will be like my first Paralympics in '92 - a whole new excitement," Schabort, a three-time Paralympian in the marathon, said of the opportunity to potentially compete in another Paralympic Games. "Triathlon being a new sport and being part of it, and being part of a great team, will be awesome."

Barr, a Paralympic swimmer in 2004 and 2008, finished second in the men's PT2 sport class with a time of 1:10:41. He was leading out of the swim by more than 1 minute when he experienced a crash on the bike. Vasily Egorov of Russia claimed the win ahead of Barr in 1:08:58, while Andrew Lewis of Great Britain was third in 1:10:56.

"It's a huge relief," Barr said of clinching the provisional spot. "Coming away with a podium finish and securing a spot for Rio definitely will allow me to relax a little bit and plan toward 2016. This is the inaugural paratriathlon (in the Paralympics) so it's a huge honor to be able to represent the U.S. at the first-ever event. Especially here in Rio, it's an awesome venue, the atmosphere is amazing. It's going to be a lot of fun."

Hammer is another Paralympian, having represented the U.S. in track and field in 2012. His fourth-place finish in 1:00:56 was 15 seconds off the podium in the PT4 (mild impairment) sport class, but with the second-fastest run time of the day he provisionally qualified for his second Paralympic team.

"It's really exciting. In 2012 it was about the experience, whereas next year, I want to make it more about my performance," Hammer said. "I feel like I'm a more mature athlete, more mature person. If I can get there, and this is a big step in the right direction, I'm ready to hopefully contend rather than just participate."

The U.S. also had a qualifier in the women's PT4 sport class, with Norman finishing second in 1:09:45. Norman trailed eventual-winner Lauren Steadman of Great Britain after the swim, but her 20:17 5k time was the fastest of the day for PT4 women and helped confirm her silver medal performance.

"I knew this was a big race for [qualifying] and I knew had to race for time as well as place," Norman said. "It's encouraging knowing that I placed that high, and got that spot, and still have a year to improve and grow as an athlete and a person."

In the final race of the day, Walsh made up time on the bike and run segments to finish third in the women's PT5 (visually impaired) sport class.

"We had a really great race, and it worked out a little better than I expected, so that's a pleasant surprise," Walsh said. "It was really exciting, but nerve-wracking too. You don't know how it's going to turn out. I felt like we really earned it. The goal was to come and figure out how we ranked overall and figure out what we need to work on for next year. I feel so proud to represent the U.S."

Brandon Adame (Houston, Texas) finished second in the men's PT5 race to round out the eight medals won by Americans on Saturday.

Action from Copacabana Beach continues tomorrow with the elite ITU World Olympic Qualification Event. The top-three finishers in the men's and women's races earn National Federation team quota spots, and Americans have a chance to earn a spot on the U.S. Olympic Triathlon Team if they finish within the top eight and are among the top-two U.S. finishers. Visit usatriathlon.org for more on the elite races.