After another highly successful games, this time in Beijing, the flag of the International Paralympic Committee now resides in British hands.
For the next four years, both officials and athletes covering all disciplines will be gearing up in order to make the next festival of sporting prowess an equally powerful cocktail of emotions – of triumph and tragedy, derring-do and deep disappointment. For once the streets of host city London will indeed be paved with gold.
The extravaganza in China was a great success for those who realised their sporting dreams in a cycle saddle, not just in personal terms, but also because it once again proved that those with a disability are as capable of serving up world-class performances as their able-bodied counterparts.
Let’s take Team GB as an example, who collected a total haul of 17 gold medals and three silvers, but even more impressively, took 12 golds from 13 events at the Laoshan Velodrome.
While many of the headlines were given over to the exploits of Darren Kenny, Simon Richardson, Ellen Hunter and Aileen McGlynn, it was the performance of the squad overall that made such a great impression, outperforming the able bodied team’s efforts at the Olympics held earlier in that Beijing summer.
Of course, these are elite athletes that we are discussing, but there is every reason for cyclists of comparatively lesser ability, or those who simply enjoy going along for the ride, to take inspiration from the efforts of the British team.
World-class performances require world-class preparation, and the elite cyclists have benefited from the best coaching available, funded through National Lottery cash.
But at all levels, cycling for those with a disability has in recent years received more of the attention it deserves in encouraging people to get involved, improve physical and mental fitness, and enjoy themselves. This has resulted in better facilities and, therefore, more opportunities.
High Level Of Competition
Whereas in previous decades, all of the focus during the year of a summer Olympiad was on the able-bodied games, now Paralympians are writing their fair share of headlines, too. Further evidence of the importance and high level of competition involving athletes with a disability can be drawn from the amount of airtime that mainstream broadcasters gave to the events in China.
As a first port of call towards getting a piece of action, it is worth visiting the British Cycling site where you will find plenty of information along with contact details for related associations and organisations.
More general statistics on the preparation and performance of the British team as a whole can be found at , the home of the registered charity, the British Paralympic Association.
With the clock ticking down towards London 2012, the search is ongoing to find the talent that can deliver even greater results for the cycling team.
With the drive and determination displayed by the heroes of Beijing as your inspiration, it could be you setting the gold standard four years from now.
Twenty medals will be a very difficult feat to emulate, but the Paralympics is the ultimate arena where dreams can indeed become reality. So, why not?