McLean conquers phobia in para-triathlon

For Paralympian triathlete Claire McLean, learning to swim was a psychological ordeal as well as a physicial challenge.

Australian Claire McLean has made history competing in the first Paralympic triathlon in Rio, but first she had to conquer a deep-rooted phobia of the water.

McLean, who acquired an impairment to her left arm in a motorcycle accident as a 19-year-old, placed ninth in the inaugural women's PT4 para-triathlon on Sunday (Monday AEST).

"I might have learnt to swim with one arm but that was not the disability. The disability was totally psychological," McLean said.

The West Australian never learnt to swim as a youngster, and it was the prospect of drowning, not sharks, that terrified her.

"The fear was to the point in the early days where the smell of chlorine would make me physically sick," she said.

After a distinguished cycling career, in which McLean won silver at the Athens Paralympics, the 43-year-old decided to take control.

"One of the best things I did was push myself to do this sport because it made me step out of my comfort zone and get over it," she said.

"The good thing about swimming is that you can't tell you're crying under the water."

McLean was nonetheless relieved to see smooth waters at Rio's Copacabana Beach on race day.

"Now I'm just at the point where big crashing surf waves make me feel sick," she said.

Also making history on day four of competition was McLean's teammate Kate Doughty, who placed fifth in the same race.

And Katie Kelly won first para-triathlon gold medal in the PT5 event with help from sighted guide, Sydney 2000 Olympian Michellie Jones.

Source: AAP

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