NOWRA’S Jonathan Goerlach is the new Australian and Oceania paratriathlon champion, defending his national title from 2013.
Assisted by his guide Daudi Somi, Goerlach competed in the Australian and Oceania Paratriathlon Championships on Sunday, January 12 to finish first in the Tri6b category.
Held at the Penrith Regatta Centre, Goerlach was the first visually-impaired triathlete from their two categories to complete the 750 metre swim, 20 kilometre bike and five kilometre run with a finishing time of 1:03.40, more than five minutes ahead of his nearest rival.
The triathlon was the most impressive performance of Goerlach’s short career, even though his triumphs have previously taken him to the ITU Paratriathlon World Championships, where he finished in fifth place, held in Auckland, 2012.
Goerlach said that in triathlon it is not all about what time you achieve.
“Every course is different. Sometimes there are windy days or rainy days, you just have to do the best with the circumstances you’re given,” he said.
Goerlach suffers from a rare degenerative genetic condition called Ushers Syndrome, leaving its host legally-blind and hearing impaired.
“I wear hearing aids all of the time, but I have to take them out when I am competing as they aren’t waterproof. I’ve lost about 20 to 25 per cent of my hearing, which is challenging because it is hard to hear instructions from my guide or when I need to start the event,” he said.
The 31-year-old has a spark when it comes to athletic talent.
His dedication to overcome adversity has previously led him to be selected in the Australian Blind Cricket Twenty20 World Cup squad, held in Bangalore India in 2012.
But his main passion is paratriathlons.
Goerlach has an ultimate goal of representing Australia in the 2016 Rio Paralympics alongside one of his guides from his ACT based squad Performance Triathlon Coaching, who aims to help Goerlach reach his Paralympic dreams.
Goerlach is committed to achieve his athletic goals, following his coach Corey Bacon’s motto.
“Swim to stay in it; bike to be in it and run to win it,” Goerlach said.
But it has not always been a natural progression into the sport of triathlon.
Goerlach’s fear of water has set him back as he nearly drowned at the age of four in his father’s backyard.
But under his coach, Goerlach is overcoming his fear in order to participate in triathlons.
“I got to the age where I wanted a challenge so starting triathlons meant there was no better time to conquer my fear of swimming,” Goerlach said.
“I really only started swimming two years ago, after avoiding the water for over 20 years, so it’s an area that I have to work on with some intensive one-on-one coaching”.
Goerlach is focused on improving some aspects of the paratriathlon to be the best for the 2016 Rio Paralympics.
He plans to relocate to Canberra this week to attend university and train for his tilt at the Paralympics.
“I have to improve my swim – the bike and run are going great and the move to Canberra will be a positive one – so the aim is to improve my swim and ‘stay in it’,” Goerlach said.