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Saanich triathlete leaves Saturday for Tokyo Paralympics

Jessica Tuomela will tackle 750-metre swim, 20km bike ride and 5k run
Jessica Tuomela (left) and her race guide, Marianne Hogan, at a Triathalon event in Spain in June 2021. (Photo courtesy of Jessica Tuomela)

Saanich paratriathlete Jessica Tuomela leaves for the Tokyo Paralympics on Aug. 21 where she will compete with her race guide Marianne Hogan in the triathalon.

“I’m excited and it feels so surreal that I’m leaving on Saturday – packing up the suitcases makes it feel a little more real,” said Tuomela.

Originally from Sault Ste Marie, Ont., Tuomela developed retinoblastoma at age three leaving her totally blind – but she didn’t let that stop her from becoming a world-class athlete.

“There are added things that I need to take into consideration, and we have to make sure that I have training partners because my race partner lives in Montreal,” said Tuomela. “Having training partners is really important so I can get outside and run and not just train on a treadmill.”

She began her swimming career especially young and was fearful of the water at first, but she persisted and eventually began competitively swimming, winning many international medals along the way.

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Tuomela then decided to begin training for triathlons which led to extensive preparations for half marathons. Soon after that, she was selected in a talent camp – a selection that would lead her to Greater Victoria where she now calls home.

She won her first World Para-triathlon series in Edmonton in 2018, taking home bronze and she also reached the podium at the Paralympic test event in Tokyo. The official announcement that Tuomela would be attending the Paralympics was made at the beginning of July this year.

“Competing as a visually impaired athlete is very much a team sport because my guide and I are tied together – when we swim, for example, it’s just a piece of shock cord that has two loops on either end.”

She emphasized how grateful she is for her race guide and everyone on the support staff team who have helped her become the athlete that she is today.

The 2020 Summer Paralympics take place from Aug. 24 to Sept. 5 in Tokyo, Japan. The paratriathlon is made up of a 750-metre swim, 20km bike ride and 5k run, and takes place Aug. 28 and 29 in Odaiba Marine Park.

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