Tandem pair complete Paralympic medal set
All the kicks up the backside Phillipa Gray has received from her pilot Laura Thompson have been well worth it after the tandem cyclists snared a full set of Paralympic medals at the London Games.
The Southland pair transferred their great form from the track to the road circuit at Brands Hatch yesterday as they claimed silver in the 24km individual B time trial.
They had already won gold in the women's 3km pursuit and bronze in the women's 1km time trial at the velodrome, and have a chance to add to the haul with the road race on Sunday (NZT).
Gray, 23, who suffers from Usher's syndrome, a condition which affects her sight and hearing, has only been cycling for three years after switching from rowing.
But she is heaping all the credit on her pilot, Thompson, a former basketballer, and their coach, Brendon Cameron, better known as former Olympic champion Sarah Ulmer's coach and partner.
“I think Brendon and Laura got me here; they taught me how to be an elite athlete through their experiences,” Gray said. “Brendon knew what it took to get a gold medal. Learning and going through the hard yards with them was the big thing.”
It sounds as though Thompson's had a few stern words and emails for Gray in recent months but she didn't regret any of them following their third medal, and neither did Gray, who said Thompson always knows the right time to crack the whip.
“Laura has an awesome job, she's responsible for all the gear changing and positions and she has just nailed it,” said Gray, who sets a high benchmark for herself, one she feels is still quite a way off.
“I'm only visually impaired so when you compare me to an able-bodied athlete, because I'm on the tandem, technically there shouldn't be any reason why I can't be as strong as Laura or any of the other girls in the New Zealand programme.
“That's the benchmark I have to keep working towards.”
Gray and Thompson completed the 24km course at the well-known motor racing venue in 35 minutes and 07.68 seconds, finishing 5sec behind the gold medal winners from the Netherlands, Kathrin Goeken and her pilot, Kim van Dijk.
The time trial had been the main focus for the Dutch, who did not compete in any events on the track. Compare that to the Kiwis, with Gray saying they had been so focused on the track they had only done eight road rides together before the Games.
The medal took New Zealand's tally to 13, beating their 12-medal haul from Beijing four years ago, with three days of competition remaining.