Paralympian putting home town on map
Paralympic cyclist Fiona Southorn won a bronze medal in the Women’s Individual C5 Pursuit at the 2012 Paralympic Games.
Southorn is not just a Paralympian, she’s a damn good cyclist.
The 44-year-old track and road cyclist, originally from Tokoroa, is competing at her third Paralympic Games in London and she opened in style on Friday morning, winning bronze in the Women’s Individual C5 Pursuit.
It was New Zealand’s medal at the Games.
Southorn had missed the opening ceremony on Thursday as she had to compete the next morning. ‘‘It’s a small sacrifice in the big scheme of things. I’ll be there at the closing ceremony,’’ she says.
Southorn has a full agenda at the Games, competing in five events. The individual pursuit is her favoured discipline; she already won bronze in that event at the Para-Cycling World Track Championships in Los Angeles in February.
And to show her diversity, her second preference is the road time trial. While at the Paralympics there is also the opportunity for her to compete alongside the men in a mixed team sprint.
‘‘We’re a bit tough at the Paralympics. We do everything,’’ she
first says. Southorn competes in the mildest of five classifications for Paralympic competitors. She was born with a shorter left arm, without a hand.
That can affect her balance and braking when cycling, she says, but it does not detract greatly from her overall ability.
She has custom handlebars for some events but only needs them to get a good start.
Her bikes are otherwise the same as those used by able-bodied athletes and in road events she does not need the custom handlebars at all.
Southorn is more than competitive in open cycling races too.
A title at the national championships in Invercargill in record time is confirmation of that.
‘‘ I’ve been harassed about it actually because the two tandem pilots here are from Invercargill and they said ‘your times would be up there with the elite riders’ and they are trying to con me into riding at the elite nationals next year.’’
Tandem pilots are used in Paralympic cycling events to assist blind riders.
Southorn is a self-confessed late bloomer and moved to Waipu from her home town of Tokoroa about 12 years ago. It was there that she got into track and road cycling. She had been a mountainbiker until that time.
She adapted to track and road cycling and was encouraged to try out for the Paralymic team. Now she spends much of her time training, either around the roads near Waipu, in the closest Velodrome at Manukau or on the training rollers in her garage.
And she keeps getting better. She’s already competed at the Athens and Beijing Paralympics and is in some of her best-ever form. Her bronze medal ride shattered her previous personal best time as she finished behind Great Britain’s Sarah Storey, who took gold, and Anna Harkowska from Poland. Southorn will also compete in the women’s 500 metres, mixed team sprint, road time trial and road race in London.
Southorn will next compete in the road time trial tonight, starting from 11.02pm, and the road race on Friday, at 1.32am.