ARMIDALE’S Katie Kelly made history when she won paralympic gold in the triathlon event in its debut year.
Kelly has Usher syndrome which causes vision and hearing loss and under the guidance of Sydney 2000 Olympic silver medallist Michellie Jones, Kelly was the first across the finish line in her PT5 category.
The paratriathlon consisted of a 750 metre swim, 20 kilometre cycle and a five kilometre run. Kelly was fifth after the first stage and rose higher up the order in the cycle race. She turned a 30 second lead from the start of the run into a one minute advantage when she crossed the finish line. Kelly’s family and friends were in Rio cheering her on and she said it was an incredible honour to have them there watching her create history.
"It was the first time paratriathlon was on the paralympic program so it was such a special day for the sport and for me to be part of that was quite a special moment,” she said.
"It was just such an amazing occasion to have my mum and dad, brothers and sisters and friends and family there. About 14 of them travelled all the way over and to be able to have that kind of result in front of them was just simply unbelievable.”
Always a sports lover, Kelly started paratriathlons after she was diagnosed as legally blind two years ago. She grew up competing in running events and ironman competitions and found a way to continue participating in sport after her diagnosis.
"My eyesight got to the point where I was diagnosed as legally blind two years ago and I rang triathlon Australia after getting that news, which wasn't great news but I was thinking about how could I continue doing what I love doing,” Kelly said.
"They told me about paratriathlon and it was debuting at Rio and encouraged me to try out. I have always been one to set goals and do things that I love doing.
"I am always motivated by enjoying the things in life that make you happy and to find myself in a position where I could actually do something I loved at the highest level was just something I never imagined.
"Triathlon Australia took me on as an elite paratriathlete and teamed me up with Michellie Jones as my guide who people know her winning the silver medal at the Sydney Olympics when triathlon made its debut there. It was just extraordinary that we got teamed up together.”
Kelly hoped her Paralympic success could inspire disabled athletes to continue pursuing their dreams. Her foundation, Sport Access is aimed at making sports more accessible for children with disabilities. "I am very passionate about education and awareness around people with disabilties,” she said.
"Sport has been a big part of my life and I have worked off the field in sports marketing roles so I would love to see more events available to children with different disabilties. Paralympics help make disability more visable and the more that we see that, the more we see what can be done and how things if we just adapt and modify our environment, there is no reason why people with different abilities can participate.”