Having returned from another Great Britain Para-Cycling training camp in Spain, on the flight back to the UK I realised just how quickly time flies when you’re having fun (!). It feels not so long ago that I was having a conversation with my girlfriend about how inspired I felt after the London 2012 Paralympic Games; having watched the Cycling on TV through to live action at the Olympic Park, cheering on Josie Pearson (one of her best friends) from the stands as she threw herself in to first place winning a Paralympic Gold. A few days later my girlfriend sent me an email… and attached was a link to sign up for a ‘Road to Rio’ talent ID day.
We drove to Newport on a cold and windy Saturday morning where a number of other hopefuls found ourselves being put through our paces; power testing, temporary classification and a taster session in the Velodrome. The lung-bursting, leg-melting endurance power testing aside, I had a really enjoyable day. It was here that I met some great like-minded athletes and we all got to know each other really well over the following months. Unfortunately we came to understand that it would only get harder to stay on the team as the intensity increased on our ‘Road to Rio’.
Now 3 years on from that day in Newport, 2016 is the Paralympic year with Rio in just a few months’ time and I often wish if we could have more time to prepare. Deep down I know that I have worked extremely hard and that I have left no stone unturned, I have literally changed every aspect of my life to be the best athlete I can be and that I will be as ready as I can be when the final selection for Rio is decided.
It has truly been a roller coaster of a journey with many ups and many downs that come with being a professional athlete. It has taken a great deal of sacrifice to reach the top, starting with my personal life, family, relationship and (now nonexistent!) social life - even moving house (+200miles) to be closer to the Manchester Velodrome. At the end of the day these are all choices we as athletes, as individuals, make for ourselves but I have come to realise it’s loved ones and the people close to you making the real sacrifices. Offering unconditional support through the good times and the not so good too; days when you almost can't walk up a flight of stairs due to exhaustion after days of intense training, through to injury and your whole world feels like it is about to fall apart – They’ve put their life on-hold to help you achieve your dream.
I want to thank Sian for being there for me from day one, for her motivation and belief in me to keep on going when I felt like giving up. For being at my hospital bedside when I’ve pushed the boundaries too hard whilst out on my bike, resulting in a broken shoulder. On a whole, dealing with me (and my bikes, pedals, padded lycra, protein shakes, endless foam rolling – the list goes on!), encouraging me every day and being there throughout it all, no matter the outcome.
Wholehearted and endless thanks go to my Mum, Sister Lizanne and UK family (John & Sharon McDonald). You have always supported me through everything I have set my sights on, no matter how mad it is; from the Afghanistan battlefields, to the frozen landscapes of the North Pole, to the summits of the mountain tops. You have had many a sleepless night but never held me back.
To Roseville and The Rose Charitable Foundation, without your support I would not be able to do what I do. With your help I have been able to develop as an athlete and achieve. Your contribution and commitment has been vital to my development and I am forever grateful to you.
To the companies, charities and individuals who have selflessly invested their time; Core Health and Wellness, The Wigley Group, Support our Paras, H4H, Devereux Cycles, Athlete Service, Pewsey Velo. Thank you.
I am now focusing my efforts on the final few weeks ahead in preparation for the Track World Championships in Montichiari, Italy, 17th - 21st March 2016.