Altitude and attitude a recipe for gold
Pedalling away in a small laboratory and wearing a high-tech oxygen mask is the pending challenge for three-time cycling Paralympian Fiona Southorn.
The former South Waikato resident has been training at an altitude centre in Auckland to simulate the conditions she will face at the Para-Cycling Track World Championships in Mexico this weekend.
‘‘ I sit on this machine with a gauge on my finger that tells me how much oxygen my blood is carrying. It is really, really tough.
‘‘ I have absolutely no energy afterwards.’’
On April 12, Southorn will race in the 3 kilometres individual pursuit at the indoor velodrome in Aguascalientes – a city that sits at 1880 metres above sea level.
With the 2016 Rio Paralympics in her sights, Southorn said she was striving for a podium finish.
Born and raised in Tokoroa, the 46- year- old has already competed at three Paralympic Games, including in London where she won a bronze medal.
She said she started riding 18 years ago for the Forestland Wheelers Cycling Club as a way to keep fit.
‘‘That’s how I got into it actually and I also got into mountain biking down there.’’
The former Kinleith Mill worker transferred up north 13 years ago. And while the climate is a little more appealing, the terrain is not, she said.
‘‘The roads and the mountain biking are way better down there [Tokoroa].’’
Paralympics New Zealand officials encouraged Southorn to take up competitive road cycling and later helped with her transition to the track.
‘‘ I didn’t even contemplate it.
‘‘A lot of people have goals from an early age, but for me it’s happened a lot later in life,’’ she said.
Southorn competes in the C5 class as she was born with no left hand and a short left arm.
In road events she competes on a bike with custom brake controls, but otherwise rides the same as an able-bodied athlete.
Paralympic cyclist Fiona Southorn has been altitude training in preparation for the ParaCycling World Championships in Mexico this month.