Alison Peasgood came within 2sec of her second Paralympic medal, but it was the closest Britain’s paratriathletes came to picking up any silverware on the first of two days of competition in Tokyo.
Despite a lung-busting sprint on the blue carpet, the Rio silver medallist and guide Nikki Bartlett couldn’t quite make up the ground on the French pair ahead before Peasgood collapsed exhausted over the finish line.
Fran Brown, who has struggled with health issues, battled back from a “build-up from hell” to place fourth in the PTS2 division, but men’s PTVI favourite Dave Ellis’ hopes were cruelly ended by a mechanical issue early on the bike leg, Melissa Reid (PTVI) finished seventh and Michael Taylor (PTS4) was disappointed in eighth.
Despite the early start, the hot and humid conditions in Odaiba Marine Park were markedly different from the rain Britain’s paratriathletes had experienced in their holding camp in Miyazaki and made for a punishing 750m swim, 20km bike leg and 5km run.
The GB squad will be hoping for better fortunes in the men’s and women’s PTS5 class through remaining medal hopes George Peasgood, Lauren Steadman and Claire Cashmore.
The men’s PT4 event was the first underway and it was gun-to-tape domination from France’s Alexis Hanquinquant.
The three-time world and European champion who also won in Leeds earlier this summer, was first to break the tape in 59:58 – a commanding 3:47 ahead of Japan’s Hideki Uda, with Spain’s Alejandro Sanchez Palomero claiming bronze.
After following Hanquinquant out of the water, Taylor, a medical student from Bristol and the youngest in the field at 26, slipped back on the bike and run to finish eighth.
“I’m really disappointed,” he said. “I got a bit carried away at the start and went a bit too hard. My legs were just not there. I’ll hopefully get to Paris and be in a bit better shape. It’ll be a bit cooler, which will hopefully suit me a bit better. Full credit to Alexis, he’s incredible, I’ve really looked up to him since I started triathlon.”
USA’s Allysa Seely came back in force on the 5km run to overtake her team-mate Hailey Danz and become the first paratriathlete to retain a Paralympic title.
Brown, 36, the 2019 world champion and a former para climber, was sixth coming out of the water but laid down the fastest bike split to reach T2 just behind Danz.
Born in Truro and now living in London, the physiotherapist is an incomplete tetraplegic who runs with leg braces and also has a stoma bag fitted after being diagnosed with Crohn’s, making for a difficult build-up to Tokyo.
She slipped back through the field on the run and eventually finished fourth behind Italy’s Veronica Yoko Plebani. “I would have loved to have medalled, but after the year I’ve had just making the start-line was enough,” she said. “It felt like a mission at times, so I’m really happy to have made it to the start –and the finish. I pulled my quad getting off the bike and it got worse and worse, but I made it and paced it. It is one of those things.”
It was more US success in the men’s visually impaired class as Brad Snyder took gold ahead of Spain’s Héctor Catalá Laparra and Satoru Yoneoka of Japan.
Britain’s Ellis showed why his last Paralympic appearance in 2008 was as a swimmer by being the fastest in the water, closing the gap after starting 3:21 behind those classified with more severely impaired vision. Disaster then struck for Ellis and guide Luke Pollard as an issue with the chain ended their chances.
Snyder, a six-time Paralympic gold medallist in the pool, served in the US navy and lost his sight after an IED explosion in Afghanistan.
Guided by Rio Olympian Greg Billington, the 37-year-old was first away from T2 with a 1min 45sec lead, and despite a charging Catalá Laparra posting a 17:45 5km split, it wasn’t enough to haul back the American.
Susana Rodriguez was the firm favourite for the women’s visually impaired class and the race played out perfectly for the Spaniard – posting the fastest bike and run splits and taking full advantage of a 3:48 head-start due to the factoring to win by almost 4mins.
Italy’s Anna Barbaro took silver and France’s Annouck Curzillat bronze as Peasgood and guide Bartlett, despite posting the second fastest time overall, just failed to make up the ground needed on the run to snatch a medal.
Rio bronze medallist Melissa Reid finished seventh, one place behind defending champion Katie Kelly of Australia.