Katie Kelly's rapid course to Rio 2016 Paralympics

Katie Kelly's rapid course to Rio 2016 Paralympics

Katie Kelly is on a rapid course to compete on the world stage, after being classified legally blind in January.

The 40-year-old Macquarie resident has her sights on making the Australian team for the first ever Paralympic triathlon event at the 2016 Summer Paralympics in Rio de Janeiro.

Katie Kelly and guide Michellie Jones celebrate the win at the Yokohama World Paratriathlon Event in Japan on May 16.

Katie Kelly and guide Michellie Jones celebrate the win at the Yokohama World Paratriathlon Event in Japan on May 16.Credit:Delly Carr

Kelly was born with Usher syndrome, a rare deaf and blind degenerative condition.

The self-described "weekend warrior" raced in triathlon events for years but began to search for alternatives when her eyesight, hearing and balance deteriorated.


"It's quite extraordinary what has happened in such a short space of time," she said.

"It was a case of my ophthalmologist saying I was legally blind in January, ringing Triathlon Australia the next day and after I got the tick they put me in my first race on March 13 on the Sunshine Coast."

Kelly is ranked 12th in the world at present, but needs to jump into the top 10 to race in the 2015 Paratriathlon World Championships in Chicago in September and go on to the Paralympics.

She has just won gold at the Yokohama World Paratriathlon Event held in Japan on May 16, guided by Australia's Michellie Jones, a two-time international triathlon union world champion, 2000 Olympic silver medallist and 2006 Hawaiian Ironman winner.

The duo met for the first time in Japan, days before the race.

Tethered together, the pair battled wet weather throughout the technical sprint course which consists of a 750m swim, 20km bike ride and a 5km run.

Kelly, who now has just 30 per cent of her vision, said navigating without a guide was near impossible.

"Riding on the road is no longer safe because I can't see the periphery," she said. "In a swim, like in Yokohama's murky harbour, you can really just see what's directly in front of you.

"I am known to drift but, with Michellie, being the exceptional swimmer she is, I have never swum such a straight path in my life."

Kelly competes without her hearing aids, so, along with the requisite practice to make changes and dismounts seamless, the two bark directions to each other along the way.

With a strict training schedule and events in Italy and the USA ahead, Kelly said she has not had time to pinch herself.

"I find myself sitting on the back of the tandem bike thinking 'I can't believe this is Michellie Jones'," she said.

"That Rio is a real possibility is extraordinary.

"I would never have imagined someone like me that just loves a challenge would be here."