Triathlon at Paralympics aided by Kiwi
Silverstream’s Marguerite Christophers has played a key role in triathlon competition getting a start at the Paralympic Games for the first time.
Christophers is in Rio to act as the International Triathlon Union’s chief classifier for the three-discipline event.
She has been classifying triathletes with disabilities since 2007 and, together with an ITU research team, has developed a system which will see paratriathletes compete equally across the 750-metre swim, 20-kilometre cycle and 5km run.
‘‘Because it is a multidiscipline sport, the paratriathlon throws up a number of challenges for classification and there had to be intensive research done ahead of our developing a universal system,’’ Christophers said.
Christophers, a former New Zealand triathlon representative at age group level, is employed at Paralympics New Zealand.
A career occupational therapist, she worked at the Halberg Disability Sports Foundation before taking up her current role in 2007.
She is an advocate for highperformance paralympic sports but her head classifier role at Rio is a voluntary position.
‘‘Our six-member research group has been getting together formally at world or regional champs since 2010 when the paratriathlon was confirmed for Rio,’’ she said.
‘‘With most of the ITU group based in Europe, and being the only one from the Southern Hemisphere, it’s meant a lot of travel over the years or late night, longdistance Skype meetings.
‘‘Thankfully I’ve got a very supportive and understanding employer,’’ she said.
The ITU Classification groups disabled athletes into a class for competition with other athletes with similar sport activity limitations.
It involves medical assessment of impairment, technical assessment of their abilities and observation in competition.
Christophers said the hard work for the classifiers for Rio had been in getting to the start line.
‘‘Just as it is for the paratriathletes, so I say let the games begin.’’
The paratriathlon events at Rio are on September 10 for the men and September 11 for women. There are 30 athletes competing in each event but no New Zealanders are involved.