‘I thought I’d never race again’
SPORT t was one of the most unforgettable images of the London 2012 Paralympic Games Ð handbike road racer
Karen Darke and teammate Rachel Morris crossing the finishing line together, holding hands in a bid to share the bronze medal after a gruelling 29-mile race.
Unfortunately, the Games officials had other ideas. Although they clocked exactly the same time, the photo finish showed Rachel just in front. She was awarded bronze and Karen was left empty-handed.
ÔIT was a decision I took at that moment. IÕD already won a silver in the time trial and I thought we would be able to share the medal, but Iõve never regretted it,õ smiles Karen when she meets
TV Times before jetting out to Rio. Ômost of the men in my life couldnõt believe I didnõt race for that medal, but all my female friends thought it was a beautiful moment.
Ôbut weõll never be in that
Iposition again because Rachel has moved over to the rowing squad for Rio, and IÕM the only British hand cyclist in the road team for 2016.Õ
This time round, Karen is just grateful to be there. Since London, her preparations for the Rio Games have been beset by problems, including a road accident in 2013, when she was hit by a car while training, and an operation last year to remove a pelvic abscess.
Ôthere have been lots of times when I thought I would never make it to Brazil,õ she reveals.
Ôafter the road accident a lot of nerves in my right arm were damaged and I wasnõt sure if I would ever be independent again, let alone competing.õ
To recover, Karen, 45, took on a gruelling training regime that involved intensive gym and bike work. ‘When you get setbacks you weren’t expecting it makes you fight harder,õ she says. Ônow I feel really strong and IÕM raring to go.õ
Born in Yorkshire, Karen lives in Scotland, where she gained a doctorate in geology from Aberdeen University after becoming paralysed from the chest down in a rockclimbing accident at the age of 21.
Ôthe first couple of months were the hardest part, learning how to do everything again Ð that was tough. You canõt imagine a life beyond it, and itõs only thanks to a lot of help and support from friends and family that I got through it.õ
Since the accident, Karen has become one of Britainõs most intrepid adventurers, crossing Greenlandõs ice cap sitting on skis, kayaking from Canada to Alaska and cycling through the Himalayas.
‘The hardest was Greenland, because of the extreme climate. Cycling isnõt the hard part, itõs the bits in between Ð camping in dirt, trying to keep everything clean, staying healthy.õ
In Rio, sheõll be competing in Wednesdayõs time trial and the following dayõs road race.
She admits sheõs disheartened by the troubles the Games are facing. ÔITÕS disappointing that funding which should have gone into the Paralympics went into the Olympics, but itõs easy to judge Ð Brazil has its own problems,õ she says. ÔAS an athlete, IÕM just trying to stay focused. Rio is an iconic location, and IÕM sure the Games will turn out to be truly special.õ
How British Paralympian Karen darke battled back from serious injury to go for gold in Rio
Queen of the open road: In action at the UCI Para-cycling Championship in Lucerne, Switzerland, last year Karen (white helmet) crosses the line handin-hand with Rachel
With her 2012 time
trial silver medal