Updated: 11 July 2012
Champion hand-cyclist Rachel Morris is facing a battle to get fit for the Paralympics after being hit from behind by a car whilst taking part in a Time Trial in Alton, Hampshire last Thursday evening.
Rachel was six minutes into the event when a car ran into the offside of her hand-cycle, leaving her with whiplash and shoulder injuries.
Rachel had time to get as close to the curb as possible, but the impact was still severe and destroyed the off-side wheel of her bike.
She said: “The bike went up into the air. I remember looking across and I was aware that I was at the same height as the passengers in a car passing in the outside lane.”
Rachel had been expecting to compete at the London 2012 Paralympics in August, but that is now at risk. Rachel’s condition, reflex sympathetic dystrophy (RSD), causes extreme pain and related sensory abnormalities. When Rachel suffers an injury, her body reacts in a damaging way, which means that an accident like this impacts her more seriously, making her recovery more difficult.
“This has totally screwed me up,” Rachel said.
“I feel like everything I’ve worked for has been taken away. I can’t imagine not being there, but I know how long it has taken me to recover from this type of injury before, and it was longer than I now have before the Games.
"I'm still waiting for more medical results, but I hope they won't keep me from competing at the Paralympics. I've trained so hard, I'm hoping to defend my Paralympic title. Unfortunately the accident may affect my medal chances.
"I'd like to thank everyone for their best wishes, and I look forward to representing Great Britain at the Games."
Rachel has been a cornerstone of the GB Cycling Team’s paralympic squad for a number of years. She made her Paralympic debut at Beijing, winning a gold medal in the Time Trial. More recently, she won gold at the Time Trial and Road Race double at the 2010 world championships and bronze in the road race in 2011.
British Cycling’s member services have started the process of supporting Rachel and Leigh Day, British Cycling’s personal injury solicitors, will handle her case. She has already been to the GB Cycling Team’s HQ in Manchester to visit the GB team’s doctor, Richard Freeman, for an assessment of the damage to her shoulder and to begin the process of having her bike replaced.
British Cycling will also be following the case closely as it is concerned that these incidents are often not adequately investigated and prosecuted. British Cycling, along with Cycling Weekly and other cycling organisations have recently called on the Department for Justice to undertake a comprehensive review of how the criminal justice system deals with this type of incident to ensure that everyone, especially the victim, is treated fairly and that the right environment for people to drive responsibly is in place - letter to Department for Justice.
British Cycling’s Director of Policy and Legal Affairs, Martin Gibbs, said: “All our sympathies and support go to Rachel and we very much hope she can recover in time to compete in the Paralympics. This is an illustration of how the road safety issues which we are campaigning on are vital to all cyclists, from elite competitors like Rachel to anyone who rides to keep fit or to get from A to B. British Cycling is working hard to get the changes to transport and justice policies needed to improve the level of mutual respect on our roads so that people can cycle in a safe environment.”