The Gold Coast’s three-time ITU World champion Bill Chaffey displayed all of his world champion qualities to win the inaugural Australian Paratriathlon Championship at Sydney’s International Regatta Centre, Penrith.
It was Maclean, who first put Paratriathletes on the international stage with his performances in the Hawaiian Ironman Triathlon in the 1990s, who proved to be Chaffey’s inspiration after a 2005 training crash left him a paraplegic.
Maclean rang Chaffey in response to an email in 2006 and the man who has conquered Hawaii, the English Channel, Molokai and rowed for Australia at the Beijing Paralympics has remained his hero ever since.
And the first ever Australian Paratriathlon Championship was not all about the race but also about meeting the man he has looked up to for the past decade.
“I have followed John’s career since 2001 and when I emailed him after my accident he was straight on the phone fore some words of wisdom and I’ve never forgotten it,” said Chaffey.
“But throughout the years I have never had the pleasure of meeting John until this week’s race briefing and then after the race.
“It was certainly great to meet someone you have looked up to for so long and to be truthful, I started shaking in my boots when I heard he was racing.”
But it was Chaffey, 37, who swam strongly and was one of the first out of the water after the 750m swim before taking control with a powerful 20km bike leg and finishing off with a slick 5km wheelchair ride in a time of 1 minute 02.58 secs, with Maclean (1:12.06) holding off Horrie (1:12.38).
The former Bilambil Heights champion triathlete was left seriously injured on a training ride when he suffered four broken bones in his back, and broken elbows and pelvis, after an accident between a light truck and his bike on near Chinderah in 2005.
Chaffey will now set himself for the Cairns Ironman Triathlon on June 9 in an all-out effort to qualify for his first Hawiian Ironman Triathlon, before the ITU World Championships in London in September and his long term goal to contest the first ever Paratriathlon at the Paralympics in Rio de Janeiro in 2016.
Maclean was quick to praise Chaffey as one of the world’s finest Paratriathletes and was chuffed to hear that he had been such an inspiration.
“Bill and I have similar stories, both injured while out training and I told him he could achieve anything he wanted to and it has been great to follow his progress and to think I may have played some small part in his career,” said Maclean.
“Events like this (the Australian Paratriathlon Championships) can only encourage more Paratriathletes and there is no doubt the sport is set to go vertical.
“It will be good for Bill as he sets his sights on Rio.”
Maclean admitted his first serious outing in eight months was a tough day in the office.
“When I saw the race was in my own backyard (at Penrith) I decided to support it and a sport that has certainly supported me throughout my career,” said Maclean.
“But after just eight days training to try and lose some weight and that Christmas pudding it was tough going.”
For Glenmore Park’s Horrie, encouraged by Maclean to attempt his first triathlon, it was a pleasing result on only his fifth time on his handcycle for the multi-talented athlete.
Horrie was a member of the National Wheelchair basketball team, who just missed selection for Beijing in 2008 but qualified for the rowing team for London in 2012, winning silver in the men’s single sculls.
Other winners on the day were: Men’s Tri 2: Michael Milton (Ainslie, ACT); Men’s Tri 4: Dale Grant (Mount Waverley, VIC); Men’s Tri 5: Justin Godfrey (Albury, NSW); Men’s Tri 6: Jonathan Goerlach (North Nowra, NSW); Women’s Tri 3: Debbie Wendt (Morayfield, QLD); Women’s Tri 4: Claire McLean (Carlisle, WA) and Women’s Tri 6: Lindy Hou (Hawker, ACT).