Colbourne's gamble in quest for gold
MARK Colbourne goes for gold at the Paralympics this week knowing that one fall from his bike could put him back in a wheelchair.
The 42-year-old from Tredegar, who broke his back in a paragliding accident three years ago, admits he has been through “hell” and come out the other side.
He was crowned world pursuit champion in the 3km race at the UCI Para-Cycling Track World Championships in Los Angeles in February.
And he’s one of Great Britain’s best hopes for medals in the velodrome and on the road at the London 2012 Paralympics, which gets under way tomorrow.
But what makes Colbourne’s achievements all the more remarkable is the knowledge that a pile-up on the track or in the road races at Brands Hatch could put him back to square one – or worse.
“Falling off the bike doesn’t scare me but what would happen with the pins in my back if I did does,” said the former Wales volleyball international. If the pins twisted into my spinal chord I could end up in a wheelchair, again.
“I could end up in a hospital or even in the local cemetery but you have to block that out.
“We were on a training ride for three hours last week and, with some of the speeds we were going, if you thought about it you wouldn’t get on the bike,” he added.
“We all think we’re invincible but we’re not.”
Colbourne, who starts his Paralympic campaign in the C1-C3 category 1km time trial on Thursday, is more aware than most people are that the human body is not invincible.
After the paragliding accident at Rhossili in the Gower he endured six months in hospital and was left with lower leg paralysis and with six pins in his vertebrae.
“That day was life changing but I didn’t lose hope,” he said. “Three months on my back staring at the ceiling was my trip to hell but I never gave up.
“I still have a positive outlook on life even though I’ve been left with a disability.
“After leaving hospital I thought ‘what can I do with my life?’ “I tried rowing and that was OK but I’m an adrenaline junkie, I love extreme sports and my passion has always been cycling – probably since my triathlon days.
“From two years ago when I first got on a bike after the accident I just had this dream that one day I could cycle for Great Britain.
“Appearing at London 2012 was just a thought then but after racing for GB abroad and winning six medals in six races and winning gold in Los Angeles my hard work is paying off now.
“Every day is an adrenaline rush. I get that buzz. Every training session, I can’t wait to get out there.”
Colbourne’s mum Margaret and daughter Jessica will be in London to cheer him on and he is confident he can share some more golden memories.
As well as the 1km time trial on Thursday he goes in the C1 3km pursuit in the velodrome and the C1 individual time trial and C3-C1 individual road race.
“British Cycling only select gold medal prospects,” he said. “They don’t look for silver or bronze medals, you have to have that potential to win gold at the Olympics or the Paralympics.
“The track is where I’m best because I’m a powerhouse but I’m hopeful of gold in the velodrome and at Brands Hatch.”