Joe Townsend wins first Commonwealth Games paratriathlon gold
Former Royal Marine took full advantage of a crash by pre-race favourite Bill Chaffey to clinch his first major title in Gold Coast, Australia
England’s Joe Townsend was crowned the first Commonwealth Games paratriathlon champion having defeated the home favourites in Gold Coast, Australia.
With the sun shining brightly and thousands of spectators cheering in the grandstands, 12 paratriathletes took the start in the Southport Broadwater Parklands in hot, blustery conditions.
Aussie Nic Beveridge took the lead from the starting horn, while five-time world champion Bill Chaffey exited the water in fourth but still clocked the best swim time of 10.55mins, thanks to the staggered start where PTWC 2 (least impaired wheelchair users) athletes start three minutes behind PTWC 1 athletes.
Behind them, the Royal Marine Commando Townsend, who lost both legs in an explosion in Afghanistan in 2008, was still in sixth and last place going into the cycle leg. But this is where the 30-year-old turned the race on its head.
Cheered by thousands of spectators that packed the venue for the first ever Commonwealth paratri race, Beveridge biked hard to maintain more than a minute difference over Chaffey, who was working hard to close the gap.
So hard, in fact, that he ended up crashing against one of the barriers with two laps to go. He quickly returned to his chair, but with a broken handle that slowed him down.
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Knowing that he’s one of the strongest men in the last segment of the race, Townsend steadily reduced the deficit lap after lap.
With the trio clearly ahead of the other competitors, the medals would be decided among the two Aussies and the Englishman.
By T2, Beveridge was still in the lead, but Townsend was within sniffing distance and while changing from the handbike to the racing wheelchair for the final 5km run, Townsend moved into gold-medal-winning position where he would stay until the line.
“Swimming has always been a downside of mine,” said Townsend at the finish. “I’m one of the weakest swimmers, it’s something I’ve worked greatly on over the winter and I knew if I could keep the gap I wouldn’t get passed from the back.
“But I found myself in the lead coming out of T2 and I knew others in the field couldn’t push past me, it seems narrow minded but I know what my strengths are and it was a dream finish for me.”
Behind him, Beveridge took silver in his first ever in Major Games. “We did a race plan last night with my coach and it was executed just as I planned. I didn’t expect to place, it just worked out that way.”
A disappointed bronze-medallist Chaffey commented: “I always want to go hard out. I saw that Joe had a great swim, better than he usually does, so I had to be more aggressive and I made a silly mistake and stuffed up.
“I think Joe would have beaten me anyway. You’re not going out there to win bronze, every athlete knows that, shit happens. I made the mistake, I stuffed up, it was a silly mistake.”
Top image: Delly Carr/ITU Media