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Paratriathletes inspire at Austin triathlon

Pam LeBlanc

Editor’s note: This article was originally published May 29, 2013

I still can’t shake the image of those athletes.

Did you watch the USA Paratriathlon National Championship on Monday? Athletes - some in racing wheelchairs, some with prosthetic running blades, some with guides to “see” for them - tore through the downtown course where the Life Time Fitness Tri CapTex was staged.

Talk about inspiration. They took away every excuse for not trying. But what was most remarkable wasn’t how different they were from athletes competing in the regular that day, but how the same they were. Everyone on the course that day sweated and struggled and pushed and hurt.

I saw into Sarah Reinertsen, who I wrote about a few months ago, sail in on her running blade. She didn’t win her category, but told me that the woman who beat her had been a top triathlete before losing her leg in an accident. Reinertsen was thrilled to see that woman was back in the game, kicking butt.

I chatted with Austin’s own Patricia Walsh, who defended her national title in the category she raced in, for visually impaired athletes. Walsh races with a guide, who leads her along the course. It’s not easy to find someone who can keep up with Walsh, and when her first three guides had to scratch, Cornelia Kamp stepped in at the last minute to do the job.

In what was the most moving moment of the day for me, I watched a woman with a gait abnormality called foot drop struggle and nearly collapse as she covered the final 100 yards to the finish line.

Watching her try to get up a ramp that led over the curb was wrenching, because she was physically unable to lift her toes or ankle upward. Pure grit and determination got over the hump and down the finish chute, where she fell to the ground seconds after finishing.

Athletes competing in seven divisions earned national championship titles in the championship race, which included a 750-meter swim, 20-kilometer bike and 5 kilometer run.

Winners 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 on Sept. 11.

Here are the top finishers at the 2013 USA Paratriathlon National Championship:

  • 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), 1:38:26
  • Male TRI-2: Mark Barr (Houston), 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), 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), 1:03:15