WILLIAMSBURG — USA Triathlon and Paratriathlon came to the Williamsburg area for a weekend of racing, all to crown the USA Paratriathlon National Champions.
The Patriots Triathlon Festival, hosted by Kinetic Multisports, is the culmination of the triathlon season. Greg Hawkins, founder of Kinetic Multisports, was happy to be in Williamsburg.
“We’ve been doing this race for a number of years and we’ve known some folks who are involved with the paratriathlete program. They reached out to us earlier this year and asked if we had a venue for the national championships. I thought Williamsburg would be great. I gave the folks at the paratriathlete program a run down of the courses and they ran it up their chain of command and came back to me and it was a go,” Hawkins said.
After coordinating with James City County police on an adaptable run course, adjustments were easily made and Williamsburg was selected for the 2023 national championships.
Paratriathlon athletes can verify to compete in three different classifications. The PTWC 1-2 is for athletes with limitations in lower and upper limbs that use a handcycle for the cycling segment and a race chair for the running segement , PTS 2-5 is for athletes with limitations in lower and upper limbs who compete in regular cycling and running, and PTVI 1-3 is for athletes with vision impairment.
The National Championship race, hosted on Sunday, Sept. 10, took athletes on a 750-meter swim, 13-mile bike, and 3.1-mile run. The course took athletes past Jamestown Settlement, Jamestown Beach, Chickahominy Riverfront Park, and the Jamestown-Yorktown Foundation.
To qualify for the National Championships, athletes must race in the USA Paratriathlon Development Race Series or earn the qualifying times through any triathlon.
Emily Sweeney, a competitor from New York’s Hudson Valley, began competing this year in the PTWC classification and found the sport randomly while watching television.
“I never knew this existed until I happened upon it on TV during the Tokyo Paralympics. I thought it was really cool. There was an organization at the time, Dare2Tri, that was part of the coverage and I learned that they had recreational camps for folks to learn how to compete in the paratriathlon. I signed up in 2021 and completed it. I absolutely loved it,” Sweeney said.
After purchasing all the necessary equipment (handcycle and racing chair), Sweeney began competing as part of the USA Paratriathlon Development race series. In her first year on the competition circuit, Sweeney is grateful for the opportunity to compete with many nationally-ranked athletes.
“It’s really exciting to have the competition in a really competitive environment. While there are a lot of opportunities for para-athletes to do triathlon around the country and in their communities, for me personally there’s something really special about having a competitive atmosphere and being able to really compete with my peers who are becoming my friends at the same time,” Sweeney said.
Sweeney hopes to qualify to compete at the 2028 Paralympic Games in Los Angeles
Lindsey Jerdonek, the Paralympic Program Manager for USA Triathlon, enjoys both seeing how hard the athletes work and learning more about them as individuals.
“I really enjoy meeting the athletes and hearing their stories. These athletes still want to compete, they want to push themselves, and test themselves, and race internationally, maybe even on the big stage of the Paralympics. It’s nice to be able to have this program with funding and community involvement, we’re really lucky,” Jerdonek said.
A $20,000 prize purse, sponsored by USA Triathlon and the Challenged Athletes Foundation, was also up for grabs during the weekend.
Hawkins summed up the event as “awesome”.
“To see people add that level of competition and athleticism, and not letting a disability hold them back, and thrive, it’s awesome. This is an awesome weekend, where everyone is so excited to be racing. I’m very privileged to call a lot of these athletes my close friends and they are always out there crushing it.”