Australian triathlete Michellie Jones has experienced a lot of “firsts” during her nearly 30-year career in the sport.
However, this Sunday, when she competes for the first time in the New York City Triathlon, she knows things will be different. That’s not just because she’s new to the Hudson River, where race participants will complete the swimming leg, and the Big Apple streets where the cycling and running segments be held. Jones will also be part of two relay teams hoping to raise funds for the Challenged Athletes Foundation (CAF), which helps athletes with physical challenges.
“I’m not afraid of swimming in the Hudson,” joked Jones, who is perhaps most famous for winning the silver medal in the first modern Olympic triathlon, in Sydney in 2000. “I’ve done every single race you can imagine, but the NYC Tri is quite a treat for me.”
Jones isn’t the only notable figure racing for CAF on Sunday. One of her relay teams will feature former Tour de France cyclist Floyd Landis and Marko Cheseto, a double amputee distance runner from Kenya, while the other will include WABC-TV meteorologist Amy Freeze and Sebastien Bellin, a former basketball player who suffered severe leg injuries during the 2016 Brussels Airport bombings.
The NYC Triathlon is part of the Life Time Tri Series. If either relay team bests Hunter Kemper’s NYC course record of 1:41:20, set in the inaugural race in 2001, Life Time, an athletic resort chain, will donate $25,000 to CAF.
One thing that won’t be new for Jones on Sunday is racing on behalf of those with physical challenges. She served as a guide for paratriathlon gold medalist Katie Kelly during the 2016 Summer Paralympics in Rio.
“With some luck with the currents in the Hudson, we can raise some money for an important cause,” said Jones, a former Ironman champion who is slated to be inducted into the Ironman Triathlon Hall of Fame later this year. “I’ve had the pleasure of coaching several Challenge athletes, and it’s great to see the sport of triathlon impact so many lives in a positive way.”