INSPIRATIONAL world champion paracyclist Mark Colbourne recorded another remarkable triumph yesterday when he was selected to represent Great Britain at London 2012.
The 42-year-old from Tredegar has been chosen to compete in the 3km pursuit, 1km sprint and ten-mile time trial at the Paralympic Games.
Colbourne’s story is a particularly stirring one when you consider just how far he has come since the fateful day in May 2009 when he stared death in the face. The adventurous Colbourne had always been a keen and talented sportsman, whether at rugby, football, athletics or representing Wales at volleyball.
His next sporting challenge was paragliding and he was a novice pilot flying over Rhossili Bay on the Gower four years ago when tragedy struck.
Conditions had been perfect on a sunny day but then a strong wind forced him into an emergency landing. When he was carrying out this manoeuvre he noticed, to his horror, that his wing was collapsing.
He was lucky to be alive after crashing to the ground from 35 feet, but broke his back in the impact.
Had it not been for the actions of medical staff from Wales Air Ambulance, Swansea’s Morriston Hospital, Cardiff’s University Hospital of Wales and the city’s Rookwood Hospital, with their treatment, surgery and rehabilitation, he would never have been able to accomplish what he has.
As a result of his injuries, Colbourne suffers foot drop, a neuromuscular disorder affecting the nerves and muscles, and has to endure paralysis in his lower body.
Refusing to be beaten by his disability, he is, with the help of Disability Sport Wales coach Neil Smith, from the Wales National Velodrome, Newport, enjoying a flourishing career in paracycling.
After just a few months in the sport, last September saw Colbourne win a silver medal at the Paracycling Road World Championships in Denmark.
He followed this up with an even greater triumph, crowned world pursuit champion in the 3km race at the UCI Para-Cycling Track World Championships in Los Angeles in February.
Speaking about his selection for the Paralympic Games, Colbourne joked: “They say life begins at 40!”
He added: “My first thought after the accident was, ‘I’m still alive’.
“I was so close to not being here anymore and I’m very grateful to all the people who have helped me through it – the Wales Air Ambulance and National Health Service staff were all fantastic.
“I’ve always stayed positive and tried not to give in.
“Representing Great Britain gives me an opportunity to pursue a dream.
“My daughter Jessica, who is 18, is elated, as is my mother, Margaret.
“It’s a shame my father Cecil wasn’t here to see it as well – we unfortunately lost him to cancer earlier this year.
“I’m really excited to be part of the British team and this forms the first part of my epic journey.”