AUSTIN, Texas -- U.S. paratriathletes posted phenomenal performances on Monday en route to national titles at the 2013 USA Paratriathlon National Championship, held in conjunction with the Life Time Fitness Tri CapTex.
championship titles as part of the largest field yet for a USA Paratriathlon National Championship. The 750-meter swim, 20-kilometer bike, 5-kilometer run course, centered at Auditorium Shores at Lady Bird Lake, showcased the talent emerging in the paratriathlon community.
"It's my first time here, and what an excitement," said Krige Schabort (Cedartown, Ga.), who won the TRI-1 division. Schabort may be new to the championship event, but like many of the other competitors has an impressive resume. He is a two-time medalist at Paralympic Games marathons in 1992 and 2000 and is also the current Ironman world record holder in his division.
"I'm more of a long-distance guy," Schabort said, "But I really want to focus on this distance. It's better for my lifestyle and for my family."
Four athletes successfully defended their titles in their respective divisions - Melissa Stockwell (TRI-2, Chicago, Ill.), Mark Barr (TRI-2, Houston, Texas), Beth Price (TRI-3, Spanish Fort, Ala.) and Patricia Walsh (TRI-6A, Austin, Texas).
"It is so fantastic to be on the course and recognize a lot of the voices. I felt like we had a lot of really strong supporters out there. It's like I'm running in my backyard," said Walsh. "I couldn't be happier, it was so much fun."
Also claiming national titles Monday were Jacqui Kapinowski (TRI-1, Point Pleasant Beach, N.J.), David Kyle (TRI-3, Athens, Ala.), Tisa Cawthon (TRI-4, Monterey, Calif.), Christopher Hammer (TRI-4, Cheney, Wash.), Megan Fisher (TRI-5, Seattle, Wash.), JP Theberge (TRI-5, Elfin Forest, Calif.), Israel Antonio (TRI-6A, Chicago, Ill.), Diane Berberian (TRI-6B, Clearwater, Fla.) and Aaron Scheidies (TRI-6B, Seattle, Wash.).
Top athletes in Monday's race will be considered for spots on the 2013 USA Paratriathlon National Team, as well as the opportunity to represent Team USA at the ITU Paratriathlon World Championships in London, England, on Sept. 11. Learn more about the national team and Team USA on usatriathlon.org.
Interest in paratriathlon is at an all-time high and the sport continues to grow following its inclusion in the Paralympic Games program. Paratriathlon will make its debut at the Paralympic Summer Games in 2016 in Rio de Janeiro, a driving force for newcomers and experienced paratriathletes alike.
"It means a lot to be a part of this sport," said Fisher, who won gold and silver medalists for Paralympic cycling events at London 2012. "I was involved in it 6 or 7 years ago and it's grown tremendously. It's been such a wonderful thing to see, people becoming inspired and empowered by watching other people and just getting out there. I really appreciate the perspective that I've had."
Theberge, the TRI-5 winner, made his return to the sport this year after taking a year off for knee surgery. Like Fisher, Theberge is thrilled to see the growth of the sport with Rio on the horizon.
"It's a competitive sport and it's going to get more competitive, and that's awesome," he said. "I'm very excited to be part of it, having grown up in the sport."
Once again, an open Physically Challenged Division was contested in addition to the national championship wave to help meet the needs of the growing number of paratriathletes across the country. Athletes in the open division were not eligible for awards or world championship consideration.
Paratriathlon Nationals was the second race of the 2013 Can-Am Paratriathlon Race Series, a premiere North American racing circuit for elite paratriathletes in the United States and Canada. The event will also contribute to scores in the 2013 USA Paratriathlon national rankings.
2013 USA Paratriathlon National Championship, Austin, Texas
750m swim, 20k bike, 5k run
Female TRI-1: Jacqui Kapinowski (Point Pleasant Beach, N.J.), 1:32:25
Male TRI-1: Krige Schabort (Cedartown, Ga.), 1:08:28
Female TRI-2: Melissa Stockwell (Chicago, Ill.), 1:38:26
Male TRI-2: Mark Barr (Houston, Texas), 1:23:14
Female TRI-3: Beth Price (Spanish Fort, Ala.), 1:41:46
Male TRI-3: David Kyle (Athens, Ala.), 1:22:04
Female TRI-4: Tisa Cawthon (Monterey, Calif.), 1:34:59
Male TRI-4: Christopher Hammer (Cheney, Wash.), 1:07:25
Female TRI-5: Megan Fisher (Seattle, Wash.), 1:24:59
Male TRI-5: JP Theberge (Elfin Forest, Calif.), 1:14:16
Female TRI-6A: Patricia Walsh (Austin, Texas), 1:18:12
Male TRI-6A: Israel Antonio (Chicago, Ill.), 1:27:29
Female TRI-6B: Diane Berberian (Clearwater, Fla.), 1:35:01
Male TRI-6B: Aaron Scheidies (Seattle, Wash.), 1:03:15
Photo Credit: JP Theberge won the TRI-5 division Monday at USA Paratriathlon Nationals. (Mario Cantu/CIMAGES)