All I can say is what a week in Rio!!! I arrived on the 9th of September, two days after the games had started and was greeted by an excited Chef de Mission Kate McLoughlin at the Paralympic Village. It was wonderful to see the rest of the team and exciting to finally be in the village.
After a short intro to life in the village I was able to go to my room, unpack, meet up with the rest of the team (at least those who weren’t competing that day) and start to feel like part of the Australian Mob!
With 5 days until my first race the individual Time Trial it was all about getting the jet lag out of the legs and being race ready. I was really ready to race and felt like I was jumping out of my skin, so that was a good indication that my preparation had been done well. I spent a couple of days on my rollers in the underground at the village and had 2 rides on the course (which was also the Road Race course). The course was really good, the road had been freshly laid, so it was flat and fast. It was an out and back course which ran along the beach front so we knew that we would have wind. Both training days was a headwind out and tailwind back but anything could happen on the day. There was one ‘dog leg’ on the time trial which was 650m out and 650m back so at least there were some turns on the course. For the Road Race there was another small ‘dog leg’ half way down the beach on the way back which had a corner of about 120 degrees so really one of the only places to get a bit of an advantage.
Time Trial day arrived and with every rider except one from Australia taking part it was a mammoth effort and logistical event that our team had to contend with, but god they did it well! I was the very last rider off on the 14th of September and with 6 girls ahead of me I wanted to chase them all down. But no head or tail wind but a cross wind coming off the water which got stronger on the return trip! I was so focused on my own race that I had no idea where I was in regards to the other riders. I had to be told that I had actually passed 2 of them, but at the finish after a number of minutes the American and Canadian camps where cheering and congratulating their riders (my two main competitors) and I actually thought I had lost the race to the point that I asked our Physio to call our head coach to ask him if I had even podium. With that phone call, all I heard was her saying ‘Oh really” at which point I thought I hadn’t even won the bronze medal until I heard her say ‘She won gold? Oh and it’s official’. With that I burst into tears! All that hard work had paid off and I had backed up my win from London. But what an emotional rollercoaster I was on!
I then had to contain my excitement and really put myself back into competition mode for the Road Race which was 2 days later. But I didn’t sleep that night because my MS symptoms decided to keep me awake so a good recovery the day between the races was important.
I’ve never been really good at tactics in the Road Race and have always just led from the front, so it was really important to have a good race plan going into it and really stick to it. It took everything I had to stick to it as the girls all wanted me to go to the front to lead and I refused. I knew where I wanted to make my jump and it was just before the sharp dog leg on the last lap. I had to change that plan slightly when I saw Jill Walsh from the USA put her gears into one higher and knew that she was planning on going as well, so about 5.5km from the finish as the German was weaving across the road to the right to try and get off the front, I kicked to the left and took off. I went as hard as I could possibly go (hitting a new power pb of 659 watts in the process)for 30 seconds and then looked back to see if anyone had come with me. Only Jill had tried to come with me but was about 20-30 meters back so I went into Time Trial mode and continued. At the dog leg towards the end I could see I was about 200m ahead of her so knew that I had it won as long as I got to the finish line safely.
It was such a satisfying win and the emotion of shear relief was overwhelming. My interview with Chanel 7 was so emotional as I thought about my dad and at that point I knew he had been with me giving me that little kick up the backside to sprint away like I had.
To make it to my 2nd Paralympic Games and to be part of such an amazing Australian Paralympic ‘Mob’ is incredible. I have so many great memories that will last me a lifetime.
But getting to these games has been a team effort and these 2 medals are their’s as well (although I won’t be giving them away!). A huge thank you to my husband Russ for his love, support and letting me go and be away for weeks at a time. Thank you to all the riders who have spent time on the bike with me helping me train- St. Kilda Cycling Club riders, Breez riders, Kim and Clare, you will all never know how much you have helped me and I will never be able to thank you enough.
Thank you to my coaches Rebecca Dicello, who has pushed me and made me realise that nothing is impossible on the trike, Nick Owen for all his persistence in Italy with tactics and sprinting, Ben Willey for helping me get stronger in the gym and head coach Peter Day who has helped pull everything together!
Thank you to the Victorian Institute of Sport for all the support in the medical area and Kylie in the nutritional area.
Thank you to Jesse and Alex at Bikebar in Melbourne for taking my trikes to a new level! Redesigning the backend of my TT trike so that it only weighed in at 12kg! Thank you to the mechanics on the team Dan (in Italy), Will (Italy/Rio) and Mikey (Rio), you guys are awesome! Thanks also to Eliza and Lia who looked after my body with massage and physio in Italy and Rio and also Berthy who constantly amazes me by knowing what I need before I do!!
Thanks also to my sponsors for helping make a dream come true. Liv Australia for your constant support in supplying me with bikes every year, She Science for your support (no pun intended), High 5 Australia for the nutritional support and Westpac for coming in during the last couple of months.
I would like to thank the Australian public, the Australian Paralympic Committee and the Australian Sports Commission for helping to get me to Rio. Without the support of all of you this would have never happened.
Lastly to my teammates not only in cycling but the entire Paralympic Team, you are an awesome ‘Mob’ and I am very proud to be able to say I am part of your amazing family.
So where to now…a bit of time off, a visit with my mom (she’s coming to Australia!) then some more riding and racing. I was asked in an interview about Tokyo in 2020…just a bit too far away, so I’ll take it a year at a time…but who knows!
About the author : CarolC
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