In the heat of Copacabana beach, the 23-year-old began the race in imperious fashion. Steadman led from the start and was only overtaken by eventual winner, Grace Norman of the USA, in the final moments of the race.
Steadman, who has previously competed in swimming at the Paralympics, used her advantage to good effect in the opening swimming leg and dashed out of the 750 metre sea swim just behind Norman.
Although behind when coming out of the water, Steadman had a superior first transition to Norman and managed to claw her way back to the American as they began the 22 kilometre bike leg.
Steadman, a multiple world PT4 champion and pre-race favourite built up a small lead over the first lap on the bike. As the sun beat down, the former University of Portsmouth student kept a slender lead as they took the bell for the cycling leg.
Before Rio, Lauren Steadman was undefeated in races she had finished since 2013, but the American Norman was breathing down her neck going into the final transition for the run.
Steadman, who studied psychology at the University of Portsmouth and has just completed a master’s in business management, gained time over Norman gradually over the bike leg but Norman stayed strong to make sure that she didn’t have too much of an advantage going into the run.
At the transition, Norman had to spend a little longer changing over compared to Steadman because of her lower-leg amputation. As a result, Steadman was able to build up a ten second lead over her rival. Behind the leaders, the race for bronze was getting closer, with Kate Doughty of Australia and Gwladys Lemoussu of France competing for third.
With one lap to go of the 5km circuit, Steadman still held a lead over the American but Norman started to close her down as they both took the bell in the inaugural women’s para-triathlon.
Meanwhile, Steadman’s British teammate Faye McClelland was only 30 seconds behind Doughty and Lemoussu as the athletes battling for bronze took the bell.
During the final lap, Norman overtook Steadman and powered away to break the finishing line tape in a time of 1:10:39. Steadman finished strongly 1:04 behind the American, winning Great Britain’s first ever female paratriathlon medal.
France’s Lemoussu finished ahead of McClelland and Doughty to claim bronze and complete the medal podium.
Steadman’s medal adds to Andy Lewis’s gold medal in the PT2 category that he won on Copacabana beach the day before.
A thrilling race at Fort Copacabana cemented paratriathlon in the Paralympic calendar and will no doubt make Lauren Steadman a local hero.
An absolutely incredible performance by Lauren Steadman, creating a piece of British Paralympic and University of Portsmouth history.