Shefali Christopher to support triathletes at Paralympic Games

The assistant professor of physical therapy education is serving as team therapist for the U.S. Paralympic Triathlon team in Tokyo.

The long-delayed 2020 Olympic Games may have wrapped up, but another group of the world’s top athletes will head to Japan at the end of the month – and Assistant Professor of Physical Therapy Education Shefali Christopher will be there to help some of them stay in top form for competition.

The Paralympic Games kick off Tuesday, Aug. 24, in Tokyo, where Christopher will accompany the U.S. Paralympic Triathlon team. She has been a contract physical therapist for the U.S. paratriathlon team since 2018, traveling internationally with the athletes and helping them navigate everything from existing injuries to recovery work as they prepare for race day.

Through her work in the running and adaptive sports special interest groups of the American Physical Therapy Association, Christopher met the head of the international paratriathlon classification, who told her the team was looking to add a medical professional to their squad for the first time.

“When I graduated from physical therapy school, I really wanted to work with the adaptive athlete population,” Christopher said. “I thought it was fascinating that we could develop and engineer prosthetics to help someone who was previously an athlete or wanted to be an athlete compete at the highest level.”

Christopher will join the 17 Team USA triathletes for their last few training sessions in Kona, Hawaii, in mid-August before flying to Tokyo, which will mark the second appearance for the paratriathlon at the Paralympic Games after debuting in Rio in 2016. This year’s events will take place Friday, Aug. 27, and Saturday, Aug. 28, at 5:30 p.m. EST in the U.S. (Saturday, Aug. 28, and Sunday, Aug. 29 at 6:30 a.m. in Tokyo) and include a 750-meter swim, 20-kilometer bike ride and 5-kilometer run.

“This is the top of where you could ever be as an athlete so I’m excited they can be there,” Christopher said of Team USA. “I’m playing a really small part in it, but I’m excited to support them and get them race ready. These are amazing people who have dedicated their life to the sport and representing the United States.”

Today at Elon will share more about Christopher’s experience at the Paralympic Games when she returns from Tokyo next month.