(ATR) The gravitas of winning the first ever Paralympic triathlon was not lost on today's medalists at Copacabana Beach.
The sport is making its Paralympic debut and winners in the men’s PT1, PT2 and PT4 event are already looking to see a para-triathlon explosion in Tokyo. Martin Schulz of Germany won the PT4 event, Andrew Lewis of Great Britain won the PT2 event and Jetze Plat of the Netherlands won the PT1.
Schulz, the first finisher of the day, told Around the Rings winning gold was "the best feeling in [his] sports career."
"It is what I have worked for in the last few years, and it is the end point and I’m so happy," Schultz said. "Last year was a test and this was the main event! I can’t hold back my emotions."
The triathlon course for the 2016 Paralympics was similar to the one for the Olympic Games. The swim began in a platform in the middle of Copacabana beach, and competitors cycled and ran along the famous Avenida Atlantica.
Plat called winning the 'historic' gold medal "kind of a perfect day," in Rio de Janeiro. His Paralympics are not complete, as he will try to win medals in the hand cycling road race and time trial. Plat said he could not look to Tokyo 2020 because he still has work to do here in Rio.
"After winning three European championships and one world championship, I’m so proud and happy with the performances," Plat tells ATR. "[The course] was difficult because it was in the sea, so the beginning was hard, but not just for me for all of them. Then the bike is so fast, and I had strong arms today."
Silver medalist in the PT4 Stefan Daniel, of Canada, says he’s going to cherish this moment, but is ready for a bigger race in Tokyo. He told ATR that para-triathlon is expected to "grow every single year," because of this "historic moment for the sport." Daniel, 19, was the youngest competitor in his race in Rio and is now eyeing improvement in four years time.
"I’m proud of [the silver medal]; I worked a hard three years for it and I’ll cherish it forever," Daniel said following his race. "It is a really special feeling. I have room to grow, and we will see where it goes."
Tomorrow the women’s PT2, PT4 and PT5 events will take to Copacabana beach for its Paralympic debut.
Written by Aaron Bauer in Rio de Janeiro.
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