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Paralympic triathlon is an inclusive sport that challenges athletes with physical disabilities to compete in three different disciplines: swimming, cycling and running. By learning all about paralympic triathlon, you’ll see that this is a sport that requires strength, endurance and skill, and provides a platform for athletes to demonstrate their physical abilities, overcome challenges and compete in one of the most challenging sports in the world.

And if you’re just getting to know the sport, you’ve come to the right place! Here we’ve gathered the most important information about the sport, including its rules and particularities.

We invite you to read on and learn all about paralympic triathlon.

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All about paralympic triathlon: what is it?

Paralympic triathlon is an adapted version of traditional triathlon, created to allow athletes with physical disabilities to compete. It made its debut at the 2016 Paralympic Games in Rio de Janeiro and has been gaining popularity ever since. The sport combines three segments: swimming, cycling and running, performed consecutively without interruption.

Generally speaking, wheelchair users, amputees and blind athletes can compete in the Paralympics.

What is triathlon?

The triathlon is made up of three segments carried out in sequence:

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  1. Swimming: Usually done in open water, but can be done in swimming pools depending on the location of the event.
  2. Cycling: Held on roads or specific cycling tracks, using bikes adapted to the athlete’s needs.
  3. Running: Generally held on roads or trails, with athletes wearing specific footwear or adapted running chairs.

Who can compete?

As of January 1, 2017, the International Triathlon Union (ITU) adopted a new classification system, including six different classes, five of which are aimed at athletes with physical-motor disabilities and cerebral palsy. The sixth category is designated for visual impairment (partial or total).

The class system was created to make the competition fairer, more balanced and, of course, to increase the level of competition, as well as giving opportunities to athletes with varying degrees of disability.

For this division, a scoring method was created that takes into account the athlete’s disability and mobility.

Below, we’ll talk about each of these disciplines in more detail. Read on and clear up your doubts.

What are the paralympic triathlon disciplines?

Paralympic triathlon disciplines are categorized based on the type and degree of disability of the athletes and are divided as follows:

PTWC (Wheelchair) – Wheelchair athletes

  • PTWC1: athletes with a higher degree of disability.
  • PTWC2: athletes with a lower degree of disability.

PTS (Standing) – Walking athletes

  • PTS2 to PTS5: divided according to level of functionality, with PTS2 representing greater impairment and PTS5 lesser impairment.

This category includes athletes with physical-motor disabilities and walking cerebral palsy.

PTVI (Visual Impairment) – Visually impaired athletes

  • PTVI1: completely blind athletes.
  • PTVI2 and PTVI3: athletes with varying degrees of visual impairment, competing with a guide.

For all these categories, there are women’s and men’s competitions.

Read also: Top Brazilians at the Paralympics: meet the top 20 athletes

What are the rules of Paralympic triathlon?

There’s no doubt that in order to understand everything about paralympic triathlon, you need to know details about the sport categories that make up the discipline.

After all, unlike other paralympic disciplines, in which the athlete needs to perform only one type of sport, in triathlon it is essential that the athlete satisfactorily masters three activities that are quite distinct from each other, each with its own set of rules.


Swimming is the first sport to be performed by the athlete, who must swim a distance of 750 meters.

Blind or visually impaired athletes are allowed to use a guide.


Next, the athletes start cycling, where they have to cover a distance of 20 km.

In this format, wheelchair athletes use handbikes, also known as handcycles. These are three-wheeled vehicles designed specifically to be propelled by the hands instead of the legs.

Visually impaired athletes use tandem bicycles, with a guide driving. Tandem bikes are bikes designed to be ridden by two or more people, one behind the other.

The race

After getting off the bike, the paratriathletes head out for the 5 km run, during which wheelchair athletes use specific running chairs.

Blind or visually impaired athletes run with a guide connected by a rope.

What are the main characteristics of triathlon?

Knowing all about paralympic triathlon involves mastering the characteristics of the category, after all, triathlon is characterized by its multifaceted nature, combining endurance, speed and rapid transitions between the three disciplines. The main characteristics include:

  • Endurance: Requires a high aerobic capacity and muscular endurance.
  • Versatility: Athletes must be competent in swimming, cycling and running.
  • Transitions: Transitions between disciplines are crucial and can determine success in the race.

Read also: Triathlon glossary: paceline, swimskin, sprint and more

How long does a paralympic triathlon last?

The duration of a triathlon can vary significantly depending on the distance and the conditions of the race. For the paralympic triathlon, which generally follows the “Sprint” format with shorter distances (750m swim, 20km cycle and 5km run), the finishing time for the best athletes can vary between 1 hour and 1 hour and 30 minutes.

However, the total time depends on the specific conditions of the race and the individual abilities of the athletes.

All about paralympic triathlon in Brazil

You may not know it yet, but the paralympic triathlon team in Brazil is already a champion!

In 2023, at the Pan Santiago Games, our team won the gold medal in the mixed triathlon relay, with Miguel Hidalgo, Djenyfer Arnold, Manuel Messias and Vittoria Lopes. The team completed the race in 1h15min8s and climbed to the top of the podium.

At the next Paralympics, keep an eye out and cheer on our athletes!

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