September 5, 2013
New Zealand enjoyed an historic day at the UCI Para-Cycling Road World Championships in Canada by filling two podium spots in the Tandem time trial event courtesy of silver medallists Phillipa Gray and pilot Laura Fairweather and the rookie pairing of Emma Foy and Gabrielle Vermunt, who secured bronze.
It is the first time New Zealand has ever achieved two medallists in the same discipline (men or women) at a global Para-Cycling Championships (at either a World Championships or Paralympic Games).
Gray and Fairweather matched their London 2012 silver medal winning performance in this event for cyclists with a visual impairment, recording a time of 37:29.29 to finish a little over nine seconds shy of the gold medal winning pairing from Great Britain Lora Turnham and Corrine Hall.
Foy and Vermunt, who were making their international debut, stopped the clock in 38:19.18 to secure a brilliant bronze medal staving off the threat of the Polish tandem pairing of Iwona Podkoscielna and Aleksandra Wnuczek by 18 seconds over the 25.9km course.
Paralympics New Zealand Bike Head Performance Coach Brendon Cameron described the accomplishment as another “stellar performance” for New Zealand cycling and added: “It has been a great day. It was slightly bitter-sweet to come within just nine seconds of winning that rainbow jersey but to see the podium flanked by four girls in the black jersey was a moment of immense pride.”
Gray and Fairweather had actually been dead level on time with the eventual gold medallists after two of the three laps of the technical and undulating course in the Quebec city of Baie-Comeau nestled on the banks of the St Lawrence River.
However, the GB pairing just edged clear on time on the final circuit to deny the Kiwi duo of Gray and Fairweather a place on top of the podium. For the Invercargill-based Gray, 24, and Fairweather, who secured three medals at the London 2012 Paralympics – a gold and a bronze on the track besides their road silver – it is yet another medal to add to their growing collection.
The strength in depth of New Zealand Para-Cycling was further illustrated by the achievements of Wellington-based stoker Foy and her sighted pilot, Vermunt (Invercargill), the 2009 New Zealand Road Club champion.
Only introduced into the New Zealand Paralympic programme in February this year, Foy, 24, a Wellington-based arts student, has been a revelation since impressing staff at a talent identification day in New Plymouth of her potential on the bike.
“We paired her up that day with Laura Fairweather (the experienced pilot of Phillipa Gray) and I remember Laura got off of the bike with a big smile on her face,” Cameron explains. “It was pretty obvious Emma was a special talent.”
“Her performance here (to win bronze) was so exciting. It normally takes at least two or three years to develop a good tandem pairing and if she continues down the same development pathway then 2016 (the year of the Rio Paralympics) is going to be a good year.
Fiona Southorn (below), London 2012 Paralympian, also competed, securing 5th place in the Women’s C5 Time Trial.
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