Al­ti­tude and at­ti­tude a recipe for gold

South Waikato News - - NEWS - By PET­RICE TAR­RANT

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.

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