Thirlmere-born and raised triathlete Michellie Jones has a shiny gold medal from Rio to add to her trophy cabinet.
Ms Jones, 47, was a guide for Paralympic athlete Katie Kelly and the pair crossed the finish line first after competing in the triathlon event.
“I already have a silver medal from the Sydney Games but to race in the Paralympics and to help someone else achieve their dream has been a highlight of my career,” Ms Jones said.
Ms Kelly, 41, has Usher syndrome, a degenerative condition that causes vision and hearing loss.
“For Katie to have won gold was unbelievable because see was categorised with Usher syndrome less than 16 months before Rio,” Ms Jones said.
“The victory was very special for her because it was the first time she competed in the Paralympics and now she is part of history.”
During races, Ms Jones is tethered to Ms Kelly and talks her through the obstacles.
“Triathlon isn’t an easy sport especially when you throw in a disability – Katie inspires me,” she said.
“As a guide I am Katie’s eyes and ears – I help her swim straight, I tell her when to put her feet on the pedals, when to transition from the water to bike to running or when to push harder.
“I have to be in great shape, better than the athlete because a guide can never distract them from their race. Being a guide is my way of giving back to the sport which has given so much to me.
“Katie and I have a close relationship. We can get cranky and frustrated but we respect each other.”
Ms Jones trains in San Diego, America and Ms Kelly trains in Canberra. The pair train together a few weeks before a competition to fine tune their race and rhythm.
“We come together when we are both at our optimum fitness levels and get our communication down pat.”
Ms Jones has lived in America since 1991 and still has fond memories of growing up in Wollondilly.
“My Picton High School coach was the one who encouraged me to pursue triathlons and it is thanks to him that I had such a great career.”