CYCLING: A BLACON man who developed cerebral palsy after being knocked off his bike in a childhood road accident has won two medals at the Paralympic World Cup - for cycling!
Rik Waddon received head injuries following a collision with a car when he was five and couldn't walk or speak properly for six months.
But he believes his fitness training as a professional bike rider has helped to stabilise his condition which was brought on by the accident.
Now 28, he finished second in the 1,000m time trial at the Manchester Velodrome last week, beating the British record by two seconds.
And he was part of Great Britain's three-man team which broke the world record by 700ths of a second to win the gold medal in the team sprint championship.
His achievement in Manchester was even more remarkable for the fact that this was his first major sprint competition. He had always competed previously in endurance events until his coaches persuaded him to try sprinting.
Rik, who is categorised as a Division Four athlete, the least severely disabled category, said: 'It is a major change in my training regime and a huge leap within the sport, but it is brilliant and I am really enjoying it. The sport is helping me to keep fit and active and helps my condition by keeping my muscles working.'
Although he suffered from a lack of normal functions in an arm and leg down one side of his body and his thought-processes were a little slow at times, cerebral palsy wasn't diagnosed until 2000 when he took up cycling competitively.
'I struggled a bit through my school years, mentally and physically, but I learned to hide the problem and quickly made up my mind just to get on with life.
'I am mostly affected by muscle spasms down my right side which sometimes cause me to fall over, but I don't have this problem while I am on a bike. They can be painful at times, but I don't need drugs, only the common painkillers sometimes.
'At the moment I need only annual check-ups, but as a member of the Great Britain team, I am routinely monitored anyway.
'Long-term, I don't know how the cerebral palsy is going to behave. Experts say that sufferers usually deteriorate with age, but it often depends on your general fitness and activities, so I am determined to stay as active as possible for as long as possible.'
Although most of his competitive events are against other cyclists with disabilities, Rik believes he will soon be ready to take on top able-bodied riders and has set his sights on making the British team for the 2008 Olympic Games in Beijing.
'By then I will be 31, which will be the optimum age for me,' he added. 'I am confident I could do well at world level. I have already finished first and second in a couple of able-bodied races.'
The former Blacon High School pupil is able to train full-time with the help of National Lottery funding, but before he took up cycling as a career, he had several jobs, mostly working in shops.
'My condition is stable at the moment, although one side of my body doesn't function as it would in an able-bodied person. I am sure cycling is helping a lot and I have no problems training a couple of days a week on the track at Manchester.
'Previously, I was spending hours in the saddle preparing for distance events, so this is a very different lifestyle.'
Rik, who won the British time trial title last year 10 weeks after breaking an ankle, is now targeting the Cerebral Palsy World Games in the USA in July and the European Championships for disabled cyclists in Holland.
In between, he will be riding for the southern-based team VC St Raphael as he bids to increase his experience on the track.