— British Cycling (@BritishCycling) September 11, 2016
Tandem para-cyclist Lora Turnham and her pilot Corrine Hall achieved their ultimate goal in the women’s B 3,000m individual pursuit, winning gold at the 2016 Rio Paralympics.
The double world champion and now gold medalist, spoke to Ian Carpenter – Sense’s National Sports Manager who helps deliver accessible sports programmes and activities – about her family, training, wedding planning and her personal mantra.
What made you want to become a professional cyclist?
I saw tandem racing on TV at the 2008 Beijing Olympics. I thought ‘I like the sound of that’ but I didn’t know how to give it a go. Then a few weeks later someone told me about a friend of theirs who did athletics but swapped to tandem cycling, I asked if I could have their number and it went from there.
At what age did you take up cycling?
At what point did you realise that you had a talent for cycling?
Pretty quickly, within six weeks of getting on a bike I was entered into my first championship.
You come from a family of Paralympic athletes, with your brother Roy making his debut at London 2012 as part of the Football five-a-side team. Would you say he influenced your path to becoming a professional cyclist?
Our parents always encouraged us to try sports; we both did athletics, which is the sport I focused on before turning to cycling. It was nice that we could enjoy sports together but in the end we both went our separate ways focusing on different sports.
We both went to the 2012 London Paralympics. Unfortunately the five-a-side football team Roy is on didn’t qualify for Rio.
What’s been your biggest achievement to date?
Winning gold at the the Para-cycling Road World Championships in 2013.
Can you tell us a bit about your condition and how it impacts on your day to day life?
Its hereditary, both my mum and two brothers have it although it hasn’t been fully diagnosed, so there’s no name for the condition. I have light and dark perception and rely on a guide dog day to day.
What adaptations or support do you have to help you train, travel and compete?
When I go abroad I don’t take my guide dog so I’ll be guided by someone instead. In terms of adaptations, I train and compete on a tandem bike with my pilot Corrine Hall. I also train indoors on a frame which is a static bike, it can be pretty monotonous.
What does a day’s training look like?
Recently I’ve been getting up at 7.30am for breakfast and I’ll then jump on the bike at 10am for one-and-a-half to two hours. Then grab lunch and to the track or the Manchester velodrome for more training. In the evening I’ll go to the gym. I try and make time to relax and watch a bit of TV at the end of the day. At the moment I am training six days a week.
What is the most challenging part of being an athlete?
Keeping up to date with friends can be tough, if there’s a friend’s birthday I would love to go for drinks or dinner but always have to think of my training regime which can stop me fully letting my hair down. I have to say though, my friends and family are incredibly supportive of my commitments.
Do you think the Paralympics should exist separately from the Olympics? Or should there be Paralympic events in the Olympics?
I like that the Paralympics is separate to the Olympics, it gives us our own identity, focuses on our own abilities.
Sport England figures show that more disabled people are taking part in sport now than ever before – why do you think that is?
It’s fantastic! I think a lot of this comes down to people being more aware of what sporting opportunities are available to them. The London games did a fantastic job of making people with disabilities aware of the possibilities. Sport gives you confidence and self-belief. On a day to day basis I can feel disadvantaged, but when competing I’m the same as everyone else in my category, the playing field is levelled and we can really show off our ability.
Sense runs a range of sport and physical activities for people with sight and hearing impairments – in your opinion, what are the benefits of taking part in physical activity?
It keeps you fit and healthy and improves your quality of life. It’s also a great way of meeting new people and socialising, and for me it’s a great way of expressing myself.
What are your ambitions after Rio – and further into the future?
Six weeks after the games I am getting married, it’s great because although it’s been a little stressful at times fitting planning the wedding in with training, it’s been a great distraction and has given me something to look forward to beyond the games. I would also love to go to Tokyo; I’m definitely not done yet!
What advice would you give to young people with sight or hearing impairments to help them to follow their dreams?
Don’t be afraid to dream big! Forget about the ‘what ifs’ and change your thinking to ‘let’s try, let’s do’. Don’t spend time thinking or worrying, we should be knocking down those barriers.
What is your mantra?
A happy rider is a fast rider. That’s what me and Corrine, my pilot, say before a race.
You can keep up with Lora’s cycling progress by following her on Twitter @loraturnham
Visit www.sense.org.uk/active to find out more about Sense’s sports and activities programmes for people who are deafblind, and those with complex needs.