Huge success for NZ Para Cycling Team as they build toward Tokyo 2020 Paralympic Games
• Silver medal overnight for Para athlete Nicole Murray in Women’s C5 3km Individual Pursuit
• Silver medal on Friday for two-time Paralympian Kate Horan in Women’s C4 500m Time Trial
• 4th place for Rio 2016 debutants, tandem pairing Amanda Cameron and Hannah van Kampen
• Multiple personal bests including one for former Para swimmer turned Para cyclist, Nikita Howarth
Day 3 of the UCI Para Cycling Track World Championships saw Kiwi Para cyclist Nicole Murray deliver a break-through performance in Rio de Janeiro on Saturday night, winning an exceptional silver medal on her international debut. This followed a stunning qualification round, in which Murray set a time 5 seconds faster than her best, to take her into the gold medal match. She finished less than 5 seconds behind the eventual gold medallist, Crystal Lane-Wright from Great Britain and almost 9 seconds ahead of Samantha Bosco from USA.
Murray said: “I did not expect a silver medal, no way at all. In the back of my mind I would have been happy with a 6th placing. I don’t think it has fully sunk in that I has happened. This is the highlight of my sporting career so far. I have never even competed internationally before.“
When asked how she balances her job as a guide at Waitomo Caves with her training she said: “I have done so quite precariously you could say. There have been days where I have had to squeeze my training in between trips. Pretty much whip my wetsuit off, get on my stationary bike, the straight back into my wetsuit and guiding again for another 8 hours. However, the nature of it being shift work does work in my favour.“
Murray from Otorohanga has been riding in the Paralympics New Zealand Para Cycling development programme for the past three years and Rio is her first international competition. A black water rafting guide in her spare time, she rides in the C5 classification for Para athletes with an upper limb deficiency – she has a hand missing on the left side following an accident as a youngster. She currently rides with no technical modifications to her bike, simply resting her wrist on the handlebar.
The win takes the total medal tally for New Zealand to two silvers, following a silver in the Women’s C4 500m Time Trial on Friday from veteran Paralympian Kate Horan, who returned to form after a long break following on from the Rio 2016 Paralympic Games. On Saturday, her fellow Rio 2016 team mates, tandem pairing Amanda Cameron as visually impaired stoker and Hannah van Kampen as sighted guide, rode off for bronze in the Women’s B Individual Pursuit after setting a scorching time in qualification. The pair finished in fourth.
The UCI Para Cycling Track World Championships are a pinnacle event on the road to the Tokyo 2020 Paralympic Games, taking place in just over two years’ time. Alongside Murray on Sunday, Nick Blincoe and former Para swimmer turned Para cyclist Nikita Howarth put in great performances to deliver personal bests.
Stu MacDonald (Para Cycling Head Performance Coach) said: “It was really fantastic to see Nicole rise to the occasion at her first Worlds. She was pretty nervous but her performance this morning was outstanding and I am fairly sure she will be hot on all of the other nations radars now tracking towards Tokyo because they knew nothing about her! To snag a second in her first Worlds is just absolutely awesome and it was against some world class opposition, which makes it even sweeter.“
On the final day racing overnight in Rio the New Zealand Para Cycling Team produced a series of personal bests including a 5th for tandem pairing of Amanda Cameron and Hannah van Kampen (sighted pilot). The newly formed sprint team of Nikita Howarth, Kate Horan and Nicole Murray had a strong finish to beat the only all women’s team in the Mixed 750m Team Sprint event.
At the conclusion of racing we spoke with Paralympian Nikita Howarth about her debut in international Para cycling. She said: “It has been pretty exciting seeing everyone race and being in a team environment again as it really lifts your spirits. Getting out onto the velodrome and doing the best I can do against top international competition has been a highlight. Nicole and Kate’s performances have been really inspiring. The objectives and goals that Stu my coach, and I set for this event were to have even lap times in the 3km Individual Pursuit and I felt I did that. To get personal best times were a great result.“
Howarth is a double Paralympic medallist in Para swimming, so we asked how the sports of Para cycling and Para swimming compare, she said: “They are pretty different in my experience so far. It seems there is not as much pressure on me in Para cycling compared to Para swimming. I love the environment and hearing your team mates cheering for you as your head is not under the water!“
Stu MacDonald (Para Cycling Head Performance Coach) said: “A highlight on the final day of racing was the tandem pairing of Hannah Pascoe and Nina Rollaston (sighted pilot) racing in the sprint event for the first time nationally and internationally. It was incredibly ballsy and to finish 5th was the icing on the cake. They committed to their plan, enjoyed it and learnt a lot. The team sprint event was another chance for Nikita to perform on the world stage and gave us a good indication of what she is capable of. Nikita started the team sprint well, Nicola and Kate finished strongly. Interestingly only two teams fielded all female teams and we finished first ahead of the Americans.
He continued: “Overall for the week we have had some highs with the two silver medals and had some really good performances and executions – and a few lows. But the resilience that the Team has shown is a true testament to their professionalism. With them all being reasonably new at this level of competition I am really happy with where they are this far out from the Tokyo 2020 Paralympic Games.“