Britain’s Clare Cunningham will be one of 60 athletes competing at the International Triathlon Union (ITU) Besancon Para-triathlon event in France tomorrow as the season gathers pace ahead of the European and World Championships later this year.
Following events in Elwood, Australia, and Yokohama, Japan, this will be the third Para-triathlon meeting of the season and Cunningham will join 59 athletes from 17 countries who will compete across five women’s and five men’s categories.
A majority of the competitors will be from around Europe, including Spain, Germany, Britain and Serbia among others, while others come from the United States and Brazil.
Eleven of the competitors are from France.
With the introduction of a new points system by the ITU, which means competitors have to compete in a series of events in order to qualify for major championships; competition this year will be fiercer than ever, especially with the sport’s Paralympic debut at Rio 2016 drawing closer.
Cunningham, crowned world champion in 2009, comes into the event in Besancon in good form after taking bronze in the PT4 category in Yokohama last weekend and is looking forward to the challenge.
“It’s a very exciting development in the sport as now we have more international competitions which can only help increase the standard of competition in Para-triathlon going forwards,” said Cunningham, winner of one swimming gold medal and four silvers at the Barcelona 1992 Paralympic Games.
“I cannot control what others do, only what I do, and so I focus on myself, follow the processes I have been working on in training and try to ensure I produce the best performance I can.
“Hopefully that will be good enough to provide a good result, but I cannot worry about whether another athlete will be faster than me on the day.”
Cunningham and the rest of the field will be using the next few events to ensure they claim a spot at next month’s European Championships in Kitzbühel, Austria, before the World Championships in Edmonton in August.
“I have been a medallist in every European and World Championships I have competed in since 2009, and so I would like to continue my run of medal winning performances in major championships this year,” added the 36-year-old, who has added three World Championship silver medals to her collection since her 2009 triumph.
The PT4 category is set to be the most competitive in the women’s competition with Cunningham expected to face stiff competition from Ireland’s Irene Riviera, Russian Anna Bychkova, Andrea Thamm of Germany and home favourite Gwladys Lemoussu.
The PT4 class also looks to be the stand-out competition on the men’s side and will include France’s former world champion Yannick Bourseaux and reigning champion Martin Schulz of Germany.
Following Besancon the next ITU Para-triathlon event will take place in London next weekend (May 31) before the European Championships in Kitzbühel, due to take place from June 20 to 22.