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By Ian Hanson
Australia will arrive at the Broadwater Parklands, Southport tomorrow determined to turn their day one Commonwealth Games Triathlon silver into gold in the Para-triathlon and Mixed Relay events.
Tasmanian tiger Jake Birtwhistle ran from the clouds to win silver in the elite men’s race with both Matt Hauser and Luke Willian a gallant fourth and eighth, respectively.
But come tomorrow, it will be the turn of six very inspiring para-triathletes, who will face the starter’s gun when the Para-triathlon makes its Games debut for both men and women, and the exciting “T20” Triathlon Mixed Relay.
Australia will field three men – five-time International Triathlon Union (ITU) world champion Bill Chaffey, his fellow Rio Paralympian Nic Beveridge and former Para-basketball player Scott Crowley and three women – reigning world champion Emily Tapp, Lauren Parker and Sara Tait – in the Para-triathlon Wheelchair Class.
Chaffey has been the face of Australia’s para-triathlon team with his “never say die” attitude that he will take into tomorrow’s race in front of a hometown crowd.
The Bilambil Heights police prosecutor and father of two girls will be charging home in the men’s race with the Aussies keen to put on a good show.
Gold Coaster Beveridge and Adelaide-based Crowley know it’s going to go down to the wire in what is certain to be a competitive race.
The women will feature Tapp, who emerged as one of Australia’s latest world champions in Rotterdam last year, newcomer Parker and Gold Coast local and Spina Bifida sufferer Sara Tait.
Parker, who was left a paraplegic after a bike accident almost 12 months ago, began her career as a NSW and Australian swimmer and won her first races at seven years of age, going on to win the NSW State five kilometre open water championship twice.
“I hope the water is choppy, that’s what I grew up on and that’s where I hope to take off,” said Parker, who cut her swimming with the respected Newcastle swim coaches Eric and Shane Arnold and 1988 Olympian Donna Proctor.
“Donna will be coming up as part of the Newcastle support team, so it will be so good to see her and all the gang,” said Parker.
And when it comes to the Mixed Relay Australia is the reigning world champion in the Mixed Relay – won by Birtwhistle, Hauser, Ashleigh Gentle and Charlotte McShane in Hamburg last year – and one of the most exciting formats in Games sport and an event that will make its Olympic Games debut in Tokyo in 2020.
Tomorrow’s team will be nominated at 6pm tonight but teams can change their selections up to one hour before race time tomorrow morning.
Despite Australia’s win last year, defending Games champions, England, led by the Brownlee brothers Alistair and Jonny deserve their favourites tag and will be the team to beat along with yesterday’s elite silver medallist Jessica Learmonth.
Expect the South Africans to be very competitive with individual men’s winner, Rio bronze medallist Henri Schoeman and Rio fourth-placegetter, Richard Murray at the helm; New Zealand, with Taylor Reid, Ryan Sissons, Andrew Hewitt and Nicole Van der Kaay and Canada, with elite bronze medallist Joanne Brown leading the Maple Leafers, will make it one of the most exciting races on the Games program.