Report: Rebecca Ransom & Neil Smith
The voting lines are open for the 2012 BBC Cymru Wales Sports Personality of the Year Awards. This year sees cyclist Geraint Thomas MBE and para-cyclist Mark Colbourne shortlisted for the prestigious title. The extended shortlist of 10 nominees displays the great achievements of Welsh sports men and women in 2012.
Highlights 2012: Mark Colbourne
Neil Smith, winner of the 2012 Sport Wales Performance Development Coach of the Year award, introduced Mark to Paralympic sport after his life changing paragliding accident in 2009. Here he describes how it was such a privilege to help Mark on his three-year journey to the podium at London 2012.
I remember very clearly that morning in 2009 when Mark first walked into the Wales National Velodrome on a pair of crutches, he was actually still a patient at Rookwood hospital and had come over to meet and discuss what opportunities where available to him in this new world of Paralympic Performance Sport.
A few weeks later he arrived for his first session on what have now become the legendary “stabalisers”, which allowed him to ride in a safe environment and regain his balance, whilst permitting me to fully assess his abilities. It didn’t take many weeks before he was riding solo again and we progressed onto the track for the real technical work to begin.
Mark Colbourne with his Silver Paralympic medal
We set a target for Mark to compete for the first time at the Grand Prix of Wales the following May and on his debut at the event he took Gold in both the time trial and pursuit, whilst also taking the British Record for his classification.
Although this was a great foundation stone there was still quite a bridge gap to a Paralympic performance level and with London fast approaching the training during the coming winter was going to be crucial if London was to become a reality, although at this stage Mark was more concerned about making Rio in 2016.
With Mark’s disability training in cold conditions isn’t optimum, so when a friend offered him an opportunity to spend the winter in warmer climes it was something he jumped at, although coaching someone 1000+ miles away may have its challenges, thankfully with today’s technologies we were able to keep in regular contact, exchanging training data and video clips.
On his return to Wales in 2011, we both knew we had to find a reference event for Mark to demonstrate to Team GB the hard work he had put in over the winter and a Time Trial in Doncaster worked perfectly.
Contacting the Great Britain Paracycling Team with the results in hand, we managed to gain agreement for FDSW to support Mark as a GB “guest rider” in Switzerland and Spain in the coming weeks; the later event seeing Mark take his first medal in a Great Britain jersey and book his place at the 2011 World Championships where he took a silver in the time trial, and secured himself a place as a full member of Team GB.
Preparations for London got underway with a great start at the 2012 Track World Championships where he became both World Champion in the pursuit and taking silver in the TT. Whilst on the road he continued to pick up medals with silver medals at the World Cup events in Spain and Italy.
So when London arrived there was great expectation both on the track and road, which Mark lived up to taking a Gold and Silver on the track and a final silver at a very hilly Brands Hatch in the time trial.
If you wish to support Mark Colbourne’s nomination for BBC Cymru Wales Sports Personality of the Year, please visit bbc.co.uk/sportwales for information on how to vote.