EVERYTHING YOU NEED TO KNOW ABOUT PARATRIATHLONS

The Paratriathlon is a variant of triathlon that is specifically designed for athletes with physical disabilities. It is governed by the International Triathlon Union (ITU), and was first held at the 2016 Summer Paralympics in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.

Paratriathlons comprise swim, bike and run legs like triathlons do. Then what sets them apart from regular triathlons?

This article explains common paratriathlon classifications, and how you can get ready for a paratriathlon race.

What is the difference between triathlonS and ParatriathlonS?

The difference between triathlons and paratriathlons lies in how the latter considers various types of physical disabilities and includes changes in the format of the swim, bike, and run segments accordingly.

For instance, a typical paratriathlon involves a 750 m swim, biking for 20 km with bicycles, handcycles, or tandems with a guide, and a 5 km-wheelchair or running race. Paratriathlons host events with Sprint, Olympic, ITU Long, Half-Ironman, and Ironman distances. Paratriathlons are classified based on the type and severity of activity limitations in participants.

What are the classifications IN ParatriathlonS?

Classification is crucial in paratriathlons because they help create an even playing field for all participants and ensures para-athletes with similar abilities are pitted against each other. Here’s a look at the classes of athletes based on the Tokyo 2020 Paralympics guidelines.

The paratriathlon classification has codes like PTWC or PTS that might seem confusing, so we have explained them below. To begin with, PT stands for paratriathlon.

PTWC – athleteS WHo USE wheelchairS

PTWC is the classification for athletes using wheelchairs (WC). PTWC is further divided into PTWC1 and PTWC2. Both these categories compete in the same event. The PTWC1 athletes get a time advantage using the ITU interval start system. Athletes must use a recumbent handcycle for biking and a racing wheelchair in the run.

PTWC1 – Athletes with major spinal cord injuries or combination impairments, for instance.

PTWC2 – Double amputations above the knee, for instance.

PTS 2/3/4/5 – Standing ATHLETES WITH physical impairment

The S in PTS means this class is for ambulant or standing athletes. However, PTS athletes are grouped into different classes based on the severity of the impairment. No two PTS classifications will compete with each other, and every PTS classification has its own event.

PTS2 – severe impairment (includes severe cerebral palsy or above-knee amputations)

PTS3 – significant impairment (includes cerebral palsy or combination of mild-limb impairments)

PTS4 – moderate impairment (includes upper arm amputations and below-knee amputations)

PTS5 – mild impairment (includes below the elbow amputation)

PTVI – visually impaired ATHELETES


Visually impaired (VI) paratriathletes participate in the PTVI category. PTVI is classified further as PTVI1, PTVI 2 and PTVI 3. However, they all compete in the same event.

PTVI1 – Consist of the athletes who are completely blind or the ones who’ve less or no light perception in either eye

PTVI2 – Comprises athletes who are severely partially sighted.

PTVI3 – Includes athletes who are less severely partially sighted.

The PTVI1 category has a time advantage using the ITU interval start system. Athletes in this category must have a mandatory guide of the same nationality and gender. It is also compulsory to use a tandem bike for the bike leg.

What are the TYPES OF paraTRIATHLONS?

Based on the level of endurance, you can compete in the following paratriathlon events:

Sprint: Comprises 750 m swim, 20 km bike, and 5 km run

Olympic/5150: Comprises 1.5 km swim, 40 km bike, and 10 km run

ITU Long: Comprises 3 km swim, 80 km bike, and 20 km run

Half Ironman /70.3: Includes 1.9 km swim, 90 km bike, and 21.09 km run

Full Ironman: Includes 3.8 km swim, 180 km bike, and 42.195 km run

WHAT DO YOU NEED FOR A Paratriathlon race?

Ensure you have the right adaptive sports equipment before you head out to train and participate. You’ll need:

  • Road or time trial bikes, as required
  • Running shoes
  • Race bags and belts
  • For amputees- Running-specific prosthetics
  • Racing chairs for wheelchair athletes
  • Handcycles for wheelchair athletes

Triathlon wetsuits are recommended for buoyancy, flexibility, and ease of movement in the water. Compare wetsuits and choose from some of the best triathlon wetsuits around.

Note: If you’re a wheelchair athlete, it is advisable to check the course for elevation and accessibility before you participate to avoid any surprises during the event.

International PARATrIAthlon RACES IN 2020

2020 ITU Elite Paratriathlon Events

ITU World Paratriathlon Series (WPS) Events 2020

  • February 29, ITU Devonport WPS (Devonport ITU World Paratriathlon Series) – Australia. Entry Deadline: January 22, 2020
  • May 16, ITU Yokohama WPS – Japan. Entry Deadline: April 8, 2020
  • June 28, ITU Montreal WPS – Canada. Entry Deadline: May 13, 2020

ITU Paratriathlon World Cup (PWC) Events

  • March 7, ITU Abu Dhabi PWC – United Arab Emirates. Entry Deadline: January 29, 2020
  • March 21, ITU Sarasota PWC – Florida, USA. Entry Deadline: February 12, 2020
  • April 19, ITU Bermuda PWC- Bermuda. Entry Deadline: March 11, 2020
  • June 6, ITU A Coruna PWC – Spain. Entry Deadline: April 29, 2020
  • June 13, ITU Besancon PWC – France. Entry Deadline: May 6, 2020
  • October 3, ITU Alanya PWC – Turkey. Entry Deadline: August 26, 2020

PATCO (formally CAMTRI) Continental Championships (CCH)

May 2, Milan Paratriathlon World Championships – Italy. Entry Deadline: March 25, 2020

2020 Tokyo Paralympic Games

August 29-30, Japan.

PARATrIAthlons ARE YOUR TURn TO INSPIRE SOMEONE!

Everything about paratriathlons looks inspiring and challenging – the race, the participants, and the endurance against all kinds of odds. When you add the intense training sessions, it can get downright intimidating—one might argue.

But taking on a paratriathlon is a ridiculously fulfilling experience. It will push your athletic abilities and confidence in ways nothing else can.

All you need to do is prepare, persevere, and be ready to perform. Having a strong understanding of paratriathlon classifications, the race course, adaptive sports equipment like wheelchairs, tandem bikes, and triathlon gear and accessories like neoprene swim caps and swim goggles, will make your journey a lot easier.

Team up with your coach, practice, and register for that upcoming paratriathlon event!

“Do you know what my favorite part of the game is? The opportunity to play.”

– Mike Singletary, Football player and coach

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