Paratriathlon world champ Bill Chaffey tests himself on path to Rio Olympic Games

The last thing triathlete Bill Chaffey remembers of his ill-fated training ride is crossing a bridge before waking up in a hospital bed.

Chaffey asked his wife Vanessa what day it was. He was relieved when she told him it was Sunday as he thought there were still seven days until the Australian ironman championships at Foster in 2005.

But he'd been unconscious for five days and it was another five months before he would leave hospital, as a paraplegic - exactly a month before his second daughter Amity was born.

"I'd qualified for the ironman Australian championships and five days before the race I was on my last training ride and got hit by a truck [from behind] and did the damage to the spinal chord," Chaffey said.

"I had four broken vertebrae, pelvis broken in half and both my elbows, so I spent the next five months in hospital. But I still say I'm the luckiest paraplegic in the world because the spinal chord injury only paralysed my left leg.

"My right leg is 90 per cent normal - I can stand on it for a period of time."

Now, with four world paratriathlon championships to his name, Chaffey has his sights set on winning the inaugural triathlon gold medal at the Rio de Janeiro Paralympics in 2016.

The policeman spent three days testing at the Australian Institute of Sport last week to help make that dream come true.

Part of that is helping the AIS scientists understand what makes paratriathletes tick.

There's plenty of data on able-bodied athletes, but virtually none in Chaffey's field, so his readings will be used as a baseline as he prepares for this year's world championships in Edmonton at the end of August.

In the wheelchair test, sweat is pouring off the 38-year-old as he pushes his arms to exhaustion.

He's up on rollers in the physiology lab, a massive tube coming out of his mouth. He's crouched over, with the rhythmic sound of his gloved hands striking the wheels as he propels them along at a constant tempo.

If pushing himself to exhaustion wasn't enough, every few minutes blood is taken from his ear as scientists watch a computer screen of data.

A few minutes later you couldn't tell he had just pushed himself to his limits and you knew he was telling the truth when he said: "I reckon I can go again now."

Chaffey also did some testing in the pool, as well as analysing and working on his technique for his swimming and chair-riding.

He uses moulded gloves that take about four days to hand-make. The AIS is investigating how to make multiple gloves a lot quicker.

"Rio is the ultimate goal, now that it's been announced the Paralympics Rio will be the first time it [triathlon] is in," Chaffey said.

"With a new sport to the Paralympic movement everybody wants to jump on board and you're getting a lot of people coming out of swimming and cycling and wheelchair racing backgrounds trying to move over into triathlon, so the competition's becoming a lot tougher and tougher.

"Of course, it'd always be good to win a Paralympic gold in whatever year, but the first one ... I think that would be pretty special."

Chaffey will leave for Chicago on Sunday to qualify for Edmonton.

The story Paratriathlon world champ Bill Chaffey tests himself on path to Rio Olympic Games first appeared on WA Today.

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