CHANGING guide during Covid-19 is a unique challenge and one Cornwall-based paratriathlete Melissa Reid is embracing as she looks to cement qualification for the rearranged Tokyo Paralympic Games, writes Tom Harle.

Reid, who competes in the PTVI category for visually impaired athletes, has switched sighted guide to Hazel Smith for a second tilt at the Paralympic Games in Japan.

Smith guided Alison Peasgood to silver ahead of Reid, who won bronze with Nicole Walters at the Rio Games in 2016.

The pair are steeped in experience but pandemic restrictions mean they've had to work even harder to forge a swim, bike, run bond.

"Hazel and I have raced together in the past so we know each other fairly well and the way we work," said the 30-year-old Reid.

"In between the lockdowns, we fitted in some training in together at Loughborough for a week which was really nice.

"It gave us the chance to just chat, focus on Tokyo and actually have those open discussions of what we want from each other and areas to work on.

"The guiding relationship is really important. We're lucky in that we've known each other for quite a few years, so it was just picking up with each other rather than starting again.

"We're both easy-going personalities and relaxed about things. It was a case of getting time on the bike, that's where she has the biggest influence on my performance.

"The rest of it is just building that understanding up so you know what mood each other are in and how to react to situations without offending each other.

"It's like being in a relationship, really!"

Reid's Tokyo cycle was rudely interrupted by injury when she suffered a prolapsed disc in December 2017 that ruled her out of racing for 18 months.

The Nottingham-born star returned to the circuit in style in 2019, winning a pair of World Cup gold medals and reaching the podium at the Paratriathlon World Championships.

In an ominous sign for the rest of the field set to assemble in Tokyo, Reid felt some way off her best despite a medal-laden season.

"I definitely wasn't at full fitness in 2019, there was a lot of room for improvement going into 2020," she said.

"That meant I could look on the positive side of the postponement of the Paralympics. I'd only been back in full training for a year and I looked at it as another year of training to get myself where I'd like to be."

Reid has been based on the south coast of Cornwall for 20 years and trains at the Falmouth's Gyllyngvase club.

With access to coastal paths shorn of tourists during lockdown and opportunities to swim in the sea, she has never been more grateful for her spot in the south-west.

"I couldn't have asked for a better place to live," she said.

"In lockdown our village has been empty whereas normally it's quite touristy, so training was really enjoyable, being able to run over the coastal path and not come across anybody.

"It was a nice change, looking at the positives of a bad situation. The weather was lovely, I managed to get a lot of nice training in."Melissa is part of the British Triathlon performance programme which is supported by UK Sport and the National Lottery. For more information on Melissa, view her profile here: