ROTTERDAM (Triathlon Canada)—Canada’s Stefan Daniel is once again the king of Para-triathlon after winning the PTS5 category at the World Championships in Rotterdam, the Netherlands on Friday.
The 20 year-old Calgarian, who won his first world title in 2015, was on a mission to reclaim the honour after being forced to settle for the silver medal behind his top rival Germany’s Martin Schulz, at the sport’s Paralympic debut one year ago.
Daniel put on his work boots in Rotterdam, and took care of business where he smashed the field with a time of 1:01:20 in the sprint distance format.
“It went really well. I tried to stick with Martin Schulz on the swim and I was able to do that,” said Daniel, who added the race was delayed one hour due to rainy weather conditions. I just tried to play it safe. It was technical and wet out there so I tried to stay upright on the bike and in contact.”
With the rain stopping 30 minutes before the race, Daniel battled through wet roads, wind and cold conditions. He exited the 750-metre swim in a pack of three, including Schulz, 20 seconds back of Britain’s George Peasgood.
Brutal weather conditions all week prevented the soft-spoken Canuck from training on the tricky bike course prior to the race, but Daniel followed the game plan set by his coach at the National Performance Centre, Carolyn Murray, to near perfection throughout the 20-kilometre ride.
“It was a bit of a challenge. I didn’t believe it was safe to ride this week so we didn’t do it. This was the first time I did the course so on the first lap I really just had to figure it out. It was fine. Everything was good and I was able to have a good ride,” said Daniel.
Slowly moving ahead of Schulz and Peasgood, Daniel took the lead into second transition and let his running legs do the talking on the five-kilometre jaunt through the streets of Rotterdam.
“The goal was really to stay upright and in contact (on the bike). I headed into T2 in first and I knew right away I had the run legs so I was happy.”
With the Paralympic Champion Schulz dropping out of the run midway through the second lap, it was clear it was going to be Daniel’s day.
The Paralympic bronze medallist from Spain, Jairo Ruiz Lopez, finished two minutes back in second place at 1:03:21. American, Chris Hammer, won the race for the bronze with a time of 1:03:44.
The victory for Daniel is another chapter in what is shaping up to be storybook career for the youngster who was born with bilateral radial club hands, with his right arm significantly more affected.
Raised in an athletic family who share a passion for swimming, biking and running, Daniel began triathlon just five years ago. He first introduced himself to the triathlon world by winning a bronze (2013) and silver medal (2014) in his first two trips to the World Championships.
But it was in 2015 when he truly made his mark on the world during a nearly unstoppable season. He won his first title at the premiere international para-triathlon race – outside the Paralympics – in Chicago, and racked up three golds and one silver during the summer while competing in the deepest classification in the world Para-triathlon circles. To top off his dream season two years ago, he defied all odds to capture the junior men’s able-bodied National Championship crown in Magog, Que.
But each step of this rising stars epic journey has had one soldier in his path to the podium – Germany’s Martin Schulz.
Schulz got the best of him by winning the 2016 Paralympics, forcing Daniel to begin a new mission over the last year to reclaim the world title.
“It was a bit disappointing not to win in Rio and I am happy to have this title back from 2015,” said Daniel. “I trained hard all year. I was really fit and I’m just happy I was able to execute today.”
Meanwhile, Jessica Tuomela, of Sault Ste. Marie, Ont., and her guide Ellen Pennock, of Calgary, also suited up for Canada at the Para-triathlon World Championships in the women’s visually impaired category.
Making their first start at world champs, the 34-year-old Tuomela clocked a sixth-place time of 1:20:41.
Australia’s Katie Kelly won the classification with a time of 1:13:48. Spain’s Susana Rodriguez was second at 1:15:02. Melissa Reid, of Great Britain, claimed the bronze medal with a time of 1:17:05.