Team PNG’s first athlete to compete at the Gold Coast 2018 Commonwealth Games, triathlete Rachel Sapery James, created history for PNG by becoming the first triathlete to finish an elite international triathlon.
Four years ago, James competed at the 2014 Glasgow Commonwealth Games where she did not finish the course.
“After Glasgow, I went back home and thought I want to have another shot,” James, 34, said.
“A lot of the girls from developing countries got pulled off the course after the swim leg at Glasgow because it was the Olympic distance.
“I knew what I was going up against going into Glasgow, but I was disappointed with the result.
“I spoke to the International Triathlon president and she said ‘you’ve got four years to have another shot’ so I went home, thought about it and prepared for the Pacific Games in 2015 in Port Moresby (PNG).”
After competing at the Pacific Games, James travelled back and forth between Australia’s Sunshine Coast and Papua New Guinea, for her training. She became and maintained her ranking as the No.1 female Pacific Islander from 2016 through to 2017 to qualify for the Commonwealth Games.
In an effort to do more regular racing, James participated in her first International Triathlon Union World Series event last year on the Gold Coast as well as her first World Cup event in Mooloolaba on Australia’s Sunshine Coast this year, both times being lapped.
While others may have been disheartened, those experiences left James even more determined. The triathlon, which consists of three events in one, begins with a 750m swim leg. Competitors then transition to a 20km bicycle leg before finishing with a 5km run.
James’ dedication paid off when she crossed the finish line in a time of 70 minutes and 20 seconds, placing her 20th.
James had a great start when she was first into the water for what is traditionally her weakest leg.
Emerging from the water in 21st place, James transitioned to the bicycle leg. She finished the four laps of the course but dropped a place to 22nd going into the final leg.
It was during the run that James dug deep to overtake two competitors, including a strong finish passing the Trinidad and Tobago athlete, and finished 20th in a strong field that saw the top four female triathletes in the world competing.
It was world champion Flora Duffy of Bermuda who finished first to claim the Games’ first gold medal.
James’ effort was acknowledged by the vocal supporters in the crowd, including Team PNG chef de mission Tamzin Wardley.
Source : The National