This time four years ago I was doing almost exactly the same as I’m doing now. Celebrating another successful Olympic and Paralympic campaign for Great Britain. I say almost, because it was a little bit bitter sweet for me. Myself and Aileen, my Stoker at the time, had come away with a silver medal and a bronze medal from my first Paralympic Games, an incredible Home Games. But the gold medal in our best event, the 1km TT had eluded us once again at international level, instead the honour of becoming Paralympic Champions had been awarded, and rightly so, to the awesome Australian pairing of Felicity Johnson and Steph Morton.
Of course, I left London full of pride for what we had achieved in such a short space of time together as a pairing, but as is the case with all athletes and competitors, losing sucks! Especially when most of your team have won Gold medals!!
And if you’d have asked me this time four years ago, (and many probably did!), if I was going to keep going till Rio, I’d have probably said “I’d love to, let’s just see what happens.”
And how crazy is this: I DID go to Rio, and four years after the silver medal in London, I can now say that I AM Paralympic Champion! Sophie Thornhill, my current Stoker and I turned around our somewhat heartbreak of the World Championships just 6 months prior to the Games, and fought back to win Gold in the 1km TT, in a new Paralympic Record. What’s almost more amazing when we look back on that crazy weekend of racing in the Paralympic Games, was that we also defended the bronze medal myself and Aileen won in the 3km pursuit four years ago; and in spectacular fashion if I do say so myself (Google it if you’re intrigued!) Just the most wonderful feeling to know that all of the hard work, all of the tears and tantrums (mainly from our coach Jon!) had all been worth it. Such a cliché, but it’s true! The amazing team around us got us to Rio in the best shape we could be in; literally dressed us (did you see how tight our skin suits were!?), fed us, built our bikes, carried our bags, the list goes on, all so we were able to perform like we knew we always could, when it mattered the most.
What made my Games even more special was spending all of it, and I mean, ALL; bathroom, breakfast, lunch, dinner, films, hair styling, celebrating (afterwards of course!) with my good friend Kadeena Cox. I’m not sure if you will have heard of her to be honest!? Kadeena, our record breaking, history making Queen of the athletics and cycling tracks absolutely MADE Rio for me. We supported each other when we got nervous, waited up for each other after races to debrief, partied with each other when we were finished, and most importantly, Kadeena was the loyal hair stylist for Sophie and throughout. We became so close throughout our privileged existence in the Paralympic Village; we now have memories to cherish forever, and that’s without counting the performances that we so dreamed we could produce.
It’s not been an easy road to get to this point, that’s for sure. I’ve had huge disappointments as a pilot in the long road to Rio; not being selected for a World Championships, injuries, being put on review amongst a long list. But as this wise quote says: ‘It’s extremely hard to beat someone who won’t give up.’
So now I’m sat here, once again celebrating an incredible Olympic and Paralympic Games for Great Britain, better even than London 2012, but this time, it’s a little bit extra special for me. I’m PARALYMPIC CHAMPION!
So, and many people have already asked me this question, if you ask me “will you keep going till Tokyo?” My answer remains the same: “I’d love to, let’s just see what happens.”