Tokyo Paralympics: Katie Kelly honoured to represent Australia at her second Paralympics

PREPARATION: Katie Kelly and her guide Brie Silk on the tandem bike. Photo: Geoff McLean - Gone Riding Media 2021
PREPARATION: Katie Kelly and her guide Brie Silk on the tandem bike. Photo: Geoff McLean - Gone Riding Media 2021

Triathlete Katie Kelly is an athlete who proves no matter what obstacle gets in your way, you can always find a way to achieve what you want in life.

Seven years ago, Kelly was confirmed legally blind when the condition she was born with, Usher Syndrome, gradually set in.

Two years later Kelly made her Paralympic debut in Rio, bringing home a gold medal.

Now the former Armidale local is in her final preparations for another shot at Paralympic glory in Tokyo.

She will compete in the Paratriathlon Vision Impaired women's category on Saturday, August 28. It consists of a 750 metre swim, 20 kilometre cycle and a five kilometre run.

"I am very honoured to be part of the Australian Paralympic team which is just full of amazing athletes," she said.

Kelly is training in Cairns to prepare for the heat and humidity in Japan.

Since her triumph in Rio, Kelly has undergone some changes. Her eyesight deteriorated further and she now uses a cane but that has not stopped her from stepping up her training.

"I used to be able to run by myself around a neighbourhood but now I need a guide," she said. "Every day you have to adapt and modify as you go along and I just focus on the present moment.

"I am really grateful for what I have and the life I have."

She moved from Canberra to the Gold Coast to train under Dan Atkins, who also coaches Olympians Matt Hauser and Jaz Hedgeland, and works with a new course Guide in Brie Silk.

Kelly said she has built up a good relationship with Silk who will be her "my eyes and ears on the course."

BEAT THE HEAT: Guide Brie Silk helps Katie Kelly at an event in North Queensland. Photo: Geoff McLean - Gone Riding Media 2021

BEAT THE HEAT: Guide Brie Silk helps Katie Kelly at an event in North Queensland. Photo: Geoff McLean - Gone Riding Media 2021

"She is guiding and navigating, she is strategising that race, where we need to be, when we need to push harder," Kelly said.

"With that, there's a lot of trust and we have done a lot of work on our communication. The words she speaks through the course are very succinct, precise and that takes years of harnessing, building up a partnership that works on many levels."

While Kelly has been doing the best she can to represent Australia and make the country proud.

"[Gold medals] are not handed out easily, it something you have to be fully committed to learn and I know it is going to take everything to receive that honour and stand on number one," she said.

"In terms of the race itself, the expectation I feel is the same in that I want to honour my potential and honour my potential for the team.

"The expectation is pressure of what I put on myself and what I want to get out of it for myself and my team."

Kelly also made particular mention of how grateful she is to have a Games to go to, given the COVID pandemic.

"We were in Japan in may, we had to do the qualifying race so Brie and I have had the benefit of travelling to Japan and going through the whole COVID protocol and competing in a COVID pandemic environment," she said.

"What we found were the Japanese were enthusiastic, kind, organised and you had a real sense they wanted to host these Games."

And she hopes to make the region proud.

"I really appreciate the support of the New England area," she said. "I often come home and train there out of the university and thank everyone for their support."

Aside from representing her country, Kelly is proud to see three young athletes making their debuts after receiving support from her charity - Sport Access Foundation.

She set the charity up after returning from Rio and it provides grants for young athletes to play sport.

"One of the most things I was most proud of was after Rio I set up Sport Access Foundation and we provide grants for young Aussies with disabilities to play sport," she said.

Swimmers Col Pearse and Kiera Stephens along with boccia player Jamieson Leeson will compete in Tokyo.

"I am so proud that I will be over there and three of our grant recipients for Sport Access Foundation have made the Australian Paralympic team," Kelly said.

Sport Access Foundation accepts donations through their website sportaccessfoundation.org.au

The Paratriathlon will be livestreamed via 7 Plus from 9.30am AEDT on Saturday, August 28.

This story Why this paratriathlete has been training in Cairns first appeared on The Armidale Express.