Paralympic preview: Christine Robbins and Sasha Boulton aiming for the top in Rio
Triathletes Christine Robbins and her guide Sasha Boulton are two of the four Paralympians representing Canada in triathlon at Rio in a couple weeks. The two compete in the P5 category for visually-impaired athletes and stay connected for the entire race with a rope that keeps them together. After some great results around the world this year, the two are ready to lay down what they hope will be their strongest race yet to earn Canada a medal in the inaugural Paralympic triathlon.
TMC caught up with the duo to hear about prep for the Games and their expectations for their race.
How have the last few months of racing and training gone for your and how do you feel heading into your first Paralympics?
Earlier in the spring we raced at a CAMTRI race in Florida — it was a really great race for us and we got third. The swim wasn’t that fast but the bike and run went really well. The qualification period ended in June, so we spend a lot of time together in May and June. Sasha moved to Ottawa at the end of her school year to train together, which is essential to our training because it really helps to be able to bike together on the tandem. It also just makes a huge difference to be able to train alongside the person you are racing with.
We then went to Japan and Scotland for our final two qualification races on the World Paratriathlon series. Japan was probably the most fun trip we’ve been on for a race, but the race itself was a challenge. We had a technically difficulty which caused us to then suffer on the run, but we both believe it is good to have a bad racing experience.
Between Japan and Scotland there were three weeks and we knew we had to put everything we had into that race. We needed to podium there, because to get the ITU discretionary qualifying spot we needed two podium finishes. Going into the race was really stressful but it paid off in the end, and we got our podium.
What prompted Sasha to move there? Last time we caught up, Sasha was making the trip from Guelph to Ottawa to train every few weeks.
Sasha decided last summer to go to Ottawa every two weeks but this year she decided it was a dream of hers as well to make it to the Paralympics so she wanted to move to Ottawa to go all in. Being a five minute drive from Christine makes it easier for training and helped us get technically comfortable on the bike, which is crucial for Rio.
Can you put into words what it means to each of you to have made the Paralympic team and be headed there soon?
Christine: I’m over the moon, it hasn’t sunk in yet but (when we were first named to the team) we had a briefing from CBC about what to expect in Rio and realized what an honour and privilege it is to be part of Team Canada.
The goal is to enjoy the next two months and soak in the whole experience and have our best race ever.
Sasha: I’ve always thought I’m not the paratriathlete, I’m really just an in-between. And I’ve been so excited for Christine. But when I got my jacket presented to me that’s when I realized I was just as much as part of this journey. We have both worked so hard and it still hasn’t really sunk in for me either!
We are both heading into Rio with open minds and it will be our last race together which is sad. Team Canada has decided they want to finish with a medal count of 16 and we really want to help contribute to that.
Why will this be your last race together?
Christine: I’m going to retire after that and move back home to BC.
Sasha: I’m going into my last year of school and I want to focus on that. I also think I might take a small break from the sport, I’ve been in it for a long time so I’m ready for a break to maybe swim varsity and then do some age-group races.