Paralympics: Cyclist Simon Richardson’s pain at missing Games

Simon RichardsonSimon Richardson won two golds and one silver medal at the Beijing Paralympics in 2008

When cyclist Simon Richardson won two golds and a silver medal at the 2008 Paralympics, he had high hopes of defending his titles at London 2012.

Those hopes were dashed when a drink-driver ploughed into him a year ago, leaving him critically injured.

Since then, Richardson has fought back to be fit enough to play a part as a Paralympic torch bearer.

“It’s a nice gesture, but it won’t make up for not being there, actually competing at the Games,” he says.

Richardson, 44, was training for London 2012 on roads near his home in Porthcawl when he was struck by a van on A48 near Bridgend.

Earlier this month the driver involved was found guilty of dangerous driving having admitted drink-driving and failing to stop after an accident. He will be sentenced on Thursday.

Road to recovery

Richardson feels a sense of relief that the court case is over and he can look forward to his next challenge – to be a Paralympic torch bearer in London later on Wednesday.

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Up until the start of the able-bodied games I was OK – now I’m feeling quite gutted that I won’t be taking part ”

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Simon Richardson
2008 Paralympic cycling champion

He was nominated by Gerwyn Owen of Disability Sport Wales last December, and was also recommended for the role by British Cycling.

But it was only this month that Richardson was declared fit enough to take part in the relay by the man supervising his recovery, consultant surgeon Paul Rhys Davies.

“It’s all down to my specialist who agreed that I can do it,” he said.

“I have to be fitted for a new body brace and can’t travel more than 45 minutes at a time.

“It’s a nice gesture, but it won’t make up for not being there, actually competing at the Games.”

Richardson will carry the torch in London on the last day of the relay, at Westferry Circus, near Canary Wharf, at 17:20 BST on Wednesday.

He said he was relieved to be given a daytime slot, as some will be carrying the torch in the middle of the night.

“There’ll be five people in my team – we each carry the torch for 130 metres,” he said.

Simon RichardsonSimon Richardson spent less than a month in hospital but still faces a long recovery

“Not many people know about the torch relay yet but I’ve told a few – my wife’s coming to see me, my parents are coming to see me.”

Richardson plans to return home to south Wales in time to see farmer Howell Adams, of Cowbridge being sentenced following his conviction for dangerous driving.

The Paralympian then faces another challenge – a back operation on 18 September which carries the risk of paralysing him.

Golden goal

Richardson has his sights set on the 2016 Paralympics in Rio but admitted there were many uncertainties.

“The specialist reckons I’ll ride again but we’re not sure in what position it’ll be, whether on a standard bike or a hand cycle,” he said.

“It’s a bit hard to tell until six months after I have the operation.

“I’m lucky – Paul Rhys Davies is very sports-orientated so when you go and see him he wants to get you back to some sort of activity.

“The only way it’s not going to happen is if he finds my bones haven’t repaired as well as he thought they would.

Jayme Richardson-ParisJayme Richardson-Paris will be cycling for Australia at London 2012 after winning bronze in Beijing

“There’s a 1% chance I could be paralysed by the operation, but it has to be done.”

As for the Paralympics itself, Richardson knows it won’t be easy to watch the competition he had been training for.

“It’s going to be a strange one – up until the start of the able-bodied games I was OK.

“Now I’m feeling quite gutted that I won’t be taking part.

“There’s always the chance I could have qualified.”

Despite Richardson’s absence, the family will still be represented at the Paralympics by his daughter-in-law.

Australian cyclist Jayme Richardson-Paris – a bronze medallist in Beijing – is currently preparing for London 2012 with her compatriots at the Newport Velodrome, also a training base for the GB and US Paralympic cyclists.

“She’s looking fine but is having problems with her wisdom teeth,” said Richardson.

“She’s the only one in her class – C1, the most disabled – so she gets put with C2/C3 competitors.

“She’s hoping to get a silver but would be happy with a bronze – gold is possible but unlikely.

“We’re lucky there are no GB cyclists in her category, so there’ll be no split loyalties.”

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