As a former Paralympian from Sydney 2000 I received some free tickets from the British Paralympic Association (BPA) and British Cycling for the velodrome – jolly nice of them! So Jill, Carl Shaw (Guide), Mark Philo (training partner) and I travelled to Londonon Saturday 1st September.
Originally I’d expected to be at an international Paratriathlon with Carl inScotlandthat weekend. However, with entries and the event being switched to a duathlon because of blue-green algae in the water, it hardly seemed worth all the time, effort and cost involved. Going to the games and competing at the North Norfolk Triathlon the following day (report to follow) were good alternatives.
We had tickets for the first session of the day, taking in the men’s BVI (Blind and Visually Impaired) 1km time trial (an event I used to ride occasionally) and also pursuit qualifying for some of the athletes with physical impairment.
On arrival at the Park what struck me was how big it seemed, but also that it wasn’t too busy. Jill decided to go and explore the park further while we watched the racing as she has seen a lot of track cycling in the past. Maybe she also couldn’t stomach watching it after some our past experiences with the Great Britain Cycling Team…
Once into the velodrome, a balmy 28 degrees apparently, the 8,000 strong crowd slowly settled in before the action got underway. We had some good seats right on the home straight – perfect! Using my monocular (a small telescope with 10 X magnification) I was able to see most of the action fairly well. We were lucky enough to witness several World records with some impressive times in the pursuit races, times that most ‘able bodied’ riders would have been proud of.
The tandem 1km was really interesting too with my old friend James Brown competing for Ireland, although this wasn’t his main event.
The World record was again broken a couple of times before one or the British pairings eventually won the gold. However, this was only after another British team (Anthony Kappes and Craig MacLean) who were favourites for the gold broke there chain twice on starting and were disqualified. Very, very disappointing as I think they would have posted something quite special…an anti-climax.
Whilst the top few teams were clearly exceptional, it was quite odd (and a little frustrating maybe) to watch several teams post slower times that I had achieved with my tandem partner 12 years ago…I’d always rather be competing than watching I guess!
Here’s a few more photo’s: –
I’m glad we got to see the Olympic Park before the site is redeveloped as part of the London 2012 Legacy plans. It was nice to see the velodrome and experience the atmosphere. It was also great to see James in action, who would later go on to achieve a fantastic bronze in the men’s time trial!!