'Best thing I've ever done'
TRIATHLON: Having helped legally blind Katie Kelly to gold in the women's PT5 triathlon at the Rio Paralympics, sighted guide Michellie Jones was moved to rate the experience as superior to her own silver medal win at the Sydney Olympics.
Jones, 47, who finished second in the triathlon in the 2000 Games, said Kelly's triumph outshone anything she had achieved during her own career.
"Oh, this is better. This is so much better because when I think of everything KK has been through ... to be able to come here and do everything she's done in such a short amount of time, to me this is the best thing I've ever done,” Jones told APC Media.
"KK is a legend. This is legendary status ... KK struggled with injuries up until July. So it's just amazing what she's done in such short amount of time.”
Kelly, 41, who was diagnosed with poor hearing at age five, suffers from Usher syndrome, an extremely rare genetic disorder that causes vision and hearing loss.
A resident of Canberra, where she trains with Australian Paralympic team head coach Corey Bacon, Kelly began competing in the PT5 classification in February last year after her condition deteriorated to the stage where she was legally blind, teaming with Jones to win gold in last year's ITU World Championships final.
Kelly's preparation for Rio had been hampered by stress fractures in her legs, but there was no sign of that as she came from behind after the swimming leg to take the lead in the cycling stage and then power home in the run at Copacabana beach to win by more than a minute.
The Australian duo covered the 750m swim, 22.28km ride and 5km run in 1hr 12min 18sec, ahead of the Great Britain combinations of Alison Smith and guide Hazel Smith (1:13.20) and Melissa Reid and Nicole Walters (1:14.07).
"I was saying to Michellie that it's something that you wish for, but these triathlon competitions I never take it for granted and it's hard work out there. You can't underestimate how hard it is to get there,” Kelly said.
"So when Michellie said 'KK, we're going to get on that blue carpet (the last metres of the course) - you can enjoy it', I thought 'no, I'm going to get to the finish line first' (before I start enjoying it).
"I'm just really honoured and chuffed, and to do that in para-triathlon here in Rio is a really special moment.
"When I crossed the finish line I felt relieved. I've just been through such an intense training, and to keep the body in shape it takes so much.
"To have my mum and dad here, you know what parents are like. They've been crying all week, so imagine what they're like now.
"It is just so special to share it with everybody. And everyone who has been along with me on the ride.”
In the women's PT4 para-triathlon, Australians Claire McLean and Kate Doughty finished fourth and fifth respectively.
Born without a right hand, Doughty took up triathlon less than two years ago after competing at international level as an equestrian rider.
In the rowing regatta in Rio, New South Wales' Erik Horrie took the silver in the AS men's single sculls, repeating his effort of four years ago at the London Paralympics.
One of the favourites after winning the past three world championships, 36-year-old Horrie finished three seconds behind Ukraine's Roman Polianskyi in the 1000m race.
"Every athlete comes to a Paralympic Games chasing a gold medal,” Horrie said after the race.
"But to come away with any medal, it's unbelievable, especially with the talent of all the athletes I went up against today. It's just a privilege to be able to be on that podium.”
ARM SPORTS BUREAU