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This weekend, paratriathlon will take center stage at the Paralympics in Tokyo. The sport made its debut in Rio, and on Saturday and Sunday morning local time—Friday and Saturday evening in the U.S.—athletes will swim, bike, and run to compete for medals again across eight different categories.
Watch the PTS4 men, PTS2 women, and PTVI men and women on Aug. 28 at 6:30 a.m. local time (Friday, Aug. 27 at 5:30 p.m. ET). And the PTWC men and women, and PTS5 men and women on Aug. 29 at 6:30 a.m. local time (Saturday, Aug. 28 at 5:30 p.m. ET in the U.S.).
How to Watch the Paralympics
In the U.S., the Paralympics are being aired on NBC and NBC’s affiliate channels—much like the Olympics were. The triathlon races, specifically, are slotted to run on the Olympic Channel on Friday and Saturday at 5:30 p.m. ET in the U.S. If you get the Olympic Channel, that will be the best and easiest place to watch.
You can also tune in to Facebook before and after the races for a pre- and post-race show hosted by USA Triathlon. Experts Bob Babbitt, Patty Collins, and Aaron Scheidies will be providing commentary and analysis. The show will start at 4:45 ET on Friday and Saturday.
The Paratri Course
While the triathlon course for the Paralympics is in the same spot at the Olympic course (in Odaiba Bay across from downtown Tokyo), there are a couple of key differences from the Tokyo Olympic course: 1. the paratri races are sprint-distance and 2. they are not draft-legal.
The 750m swim will go through the bay, then be followed by a flat turn-heavy four-lap 20K bike and, finally, a four-lap 5K run along the water. The races are non-drafting, which means they’re also much smaller in field size (with about ten athletes per category). And there’s a lot of specialized equipment required, depending on the athlete’s needs and disability.
Paralympic Triathletes: Who to Watch
There are eight triathlon events in the Paralympics—so it’s a lot more athletes to follow and to watch. Fortunately, there are some key athletes returning to defend their medals.
Para-triathlon is divided up into categories based on the athletes’ physical impairment. Not every category gets contested in every Olympics. PTWC stands for wheelchair—both men and women will race in that category. PTVI is where those with visual impairments race. PT2 is considered a severe impairment; PT5 is mild, like defending gold medalist Grace Norman, who is a below-knee amputee.
On Friday at 5:30 p.m. ET: The PTS4 men, PTS2 women, and PTVI men and women will race. In the PTVI category, Kyle Coon will be making his debut with former Olympian Andy Potts as a guide, and five-time Paralympic swimming medalist Brad Snyder has switched to paratri with another former Olympian as his guide, Greg Billington. But the PTS2 women may be the category where the U.S. is hoping to pick up the most medals. In Rio, the trio of Hailey Danz, Allysa Seely, and Melissa Stockwell took all three medals—and all three are back again in Tokyo.
On Saturday at 5:30 p.m. ET: The PTWC men and women, and PTS5 men and women will race. In the wheelchair race, there are a few amazing multisport athletes making an appearance, like Kendall Gretsch, who won gold in both biathlon and cross-country skiing at the 2018 Winter Paralympics. All eyes will be on the U.S.’s golden Grace Norman, though, who is looking to defend her title in the PTS5 category after doubling up in medals in track and paratri in Rio.
Meet the full U.S. Paralympic triathlon team here.
And check out this full preview from the Paralympic Games of which paratriathletes to watch: