From wheelchair to national champion!

A year ago I said to my coach "I want to win nationals next year," and 12-months later I've snatched...

February 16, 2007

A year ago I said to my coach "I want to win nationals next year," and 12-months later I've snatched the title. Australian XC Mountain Bike Champion - ha, that's pretty cool! I have trained towards this title for a year, it's motivated me to train through ice, rain, snow and bushfires…it feels great to achieve a goal that a year ago seemed so far out of reach.

I suppose I feel that, as a cyclist, I've made a bit of a quantum leap. Twenty-two months ago I wasn't sure if I would ever be able to ride again, and now I'm the Australian XC and Marathon Mountain Bike Champion.

Since I had my bingle, bike vs. car accident, in March 2005, I have worked so hard to return to a competitive level in cycling. It's been a daunting process, and I'm lucky to have had so much support along the way. In addition to my family, friends, surgeon and physios, I'm super lucky to have two awesome pillars of support - my partner Tim, and my coach Garron. These guys are amazing, I wouldn't be an Australian MTB champion without them. It seems a little comical now, in hindsight, that Tim and I had the audacity to ask Garron to coach me when I was still in hospital and unable to walk! (And it seems even sillier that he agreed!)

Since my accident, Garron and I have set goals that we've worked hard to achieve. In the beginning it was task enough to try and walk. I managed to damage my pelvis, left hip and back to the extent that walking was really difficult. But I graduated from the wheel chair and crutches to the stationary bike, and a few months later I was back riding, feeling slightly out of place arriving onboard my mountain bike to the Epworth Rehabilitation hospital for hyrdrotherapy and physiotherapy.

Walking is still difficult and I still limp. In fact, most things are difficult. Simple things like sitting at a desk or in an aeroplane chair can cause immense pain. And I can't run or play soccer with Ruby (my dog) without ending up sore and limping. Also, my hip flexor doesn't work, my pelvis is crooked and my muscles are still too weak - but for some reason I can ride, and for that I am grateful! For some reason, against the odds, and despite the plate and screws sitting around my hip, I can train, I can race and I can be Australian XC Champion!

I suppose it's not a bad time to start a diary - in a way I've completed a little chapter in my cycling career and now it's time to look forward to 2007. I'm still not sure what or where I'm racing in the next six months, but ultimately I would love to represent Australia at the 2007 World Mountain Bike Championships. I've never raced overseas, so I'm super excited!

I'd better go and get some sleep. It's been a crazy few days trying to play catch up at work, Tim and I are sleep-deprived and we still haven't unpacked from Nationals weekend.

Until then, happy riding

Tory Thomas

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