Monday, September 03 2012
Rachel Morris has been tipped as one of ParalympicsGB's medal hopes in the Road Cycling events at Brands Hatch, with a Paralympic time trial title to defend. Whilst her preparation for the event has been affected by injury, a history of adapting to pain has defined her career so far.
A keen athlete and sailor from an early age, Morris sustained a minor skiing accident at the age of 17 that triggered Reflex Sympathetic Dystrophy (RSD). The rare condition affects the way the body deals with injured limbs and complications over treatment led to her losing first her left leg, then the right as the condition spread.
RSD has also left Morris in constant pain, which she deals with by training for her chosen sport intensely. It is one in which she first competed in 2006, and spotted by British Cycling, she entered a full-time coaching programme with a custom-made handcycle.
Winning two Gold Medals in the 2007 UCI Para-Cycling World Championships the following year, Morris had become Britain's first double World Champion in her first appearance, claiming both the Road Race and Time Trial. This was followed up in 2008 with a commanding victory in the Paralympic Time Trial at Beijing, with a margin of almost three minutes.
Further success at World Championship level continued but in preparation for the 2011 World Championships in Denmark she dislocated her shoulder. Whilst injury is a setback for any athlete, in Morris' case the consequences can be far more serious. Nevertheless she recovered to claim Bronze in the Road Race.
Leading up to the London Games Morris dislocated her shoulder again after being hit by a car in training. Worse still her training bike was written off in the accident, forcing her to use her race machine, putting it through too much wear and tear to consider using it in the event. However a mammoth effort from supporters raised sufficient funds to buy a new race bike, to Morris' gratitude: "I can't thank the people who responded to help me get a brand new bike enough," she recently told the BBC. "I rode it in a race as a trial and it felt fantastic, it was so much better."
Morris is still playing down her chances following the accident, but her life experiences and fundamental need to train mean that she won't give up. In addition, the sense of occasion is likely to inspire her, as she explained to MSV when Brands Hatch was first announced as the venue for the Road Cycling events: "To be able to be competing in such a traditional place in the UK, and a well known place, that will draw a lot of supporters in is great. Competing in front of your home crowd is going to make such a big difference and it's going be great to have somewhere like this where people will come and hopefully get behind us." On recent evidence, just being able to make the start at Brands Hatch has confirmed Morris' hope.
Click here to check availability for tickets to the Paralympic Road Cycling events at Brands Hatch.
Please note: this event is organised by LOCOG and only official London 2012 tickets are valid for admission. Any MSV-issued passes, for example media, residents' and season passes, are NOT valid for admission.