Southern pride on para-cycling podium

Last updated 05:00 02/09/2013

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Southland played a major hand in helping New Zealand cycling to what has been described as a historic day on day two at at the UCI Para-Cycling Road World Championships in Canada.

New Zealand filled two podium spots in the B time trial event and it was done with plenty of southern input.

The Southland combination of Phillipa Gray and Laura Fairweather (pilot) grabbed a silver medal while Cycling Southland's Gabrielle Vermunt piloted Wellington's Emma Foy to bronze.

It is the first time New Zealand has achieved two medallists in the same discipline (men or women) at a global Para-Cycling Championship (either a world championship or Paralympic Games).

Gray and Fairweather matched their London 2012 silver medal winning performance in this event for cyclists with a visual impairment, recording a time of 37:29.29 to finish a little over nine seconds shy of the gold medal winning pairing from Great Britain Lora Turnham and Corrine Hall.

Foy and Vermunt, who were making their international debut, stopped the clock in 38:19.18 to secure a brilliant bronze medal staving off the threat of the Polish tandem pairing of Iwona Podkoscielna and Aleksandra Wnuczek by 18 seconds over the 25.9km course.

Paralympics New Zealand bike head performance coach Brendon Cameron described the accomplishment as another "stellar performance" for New Zealand cycling and added: "It has been a great day. It was slightly bitter-sweet to come within just nine seconds of winning that rainbow jersey but to see the podium flanked by four girls in the black jersey was a moment of immense pride."

Gray and Fairweather were level on time with the eventual gold medallists after two of the three laps of the technical and undulating course in the Quebec city of Baie-Comeau.

However, the GB pairing edged clear on time on the final circuit to deny the Kiwi duo of Gray and Fairweather a place on top of the podium. For the Invercargill-based Gray, 24, and Fairweather, who won three medals at the London 2012 Paralympics it is yet another medal to add to their growing collection.

The strength in depth of New Zealand Para-Cycling was further illustrated by the achievements of Wellington-based stoker Foy and her sighted pilot, Vermunt (Invercargill), the 2009 New Zealand Road Club champion.

Introduced into the New Zealand Paralympic programme in February, Foy, 24, a Wellington-based arts student, was a revelation since she impressed at a talent identification day in New Plymouth .

"We paired her up that day with Laura Fairweather [the experienced pilot of Phillipa Gray] and I remember Laura got off of the bike with a big smile on her face," Cameron said. "It was pretty obvious Emma was a special talent."

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"Her performance here [to win bronze] was so exciting. If she continues down the same development pathway then 2016 [the year of the Rio Paralympics] is going to be a good year."

Also in action for New Zealand on day two in Baie-Comeau was 45-year-old Fiona Southorn who matched her performance at the 2012 Paralympics by finishing fifth in the C5 time trial event.

The Waipu-based athlete, who is missing a hand, completed the 17.3km course in 27:43.13 - 23 seconds shy of a podium position.

- © Fairfax NZ News

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