Rio Paralympics 2016: Byron Raubenheimer, Emma Foy and Laura Thompson up to speed video

DAVID WHITE/FAIRFAX NZ

NZ Paralympians talk about their hopes and dreams for the up coming Paralympics in Rio.

New Zealand are riding to Rio.

Byron Raubenheimer and Emma Foy, who rides with her sighted pilot, Laura Thompson, are members of New Zealand's eight-strong cycling team. 

Raubenheimer only became involved in para-cycling in 2014, after competing in para-snowboarding until 2013.

New Zealand's para-cycling team (Byron Raubenheimer far left), minus Fraser Sharp who earned a late call-up on Tuesday.
Peter Drury

New Zealand's para-cycling team (Byron Raubenheimer far left), minus Fraser Sharp who earned a late call-up on Tuesday.

His time on the slopes saw the 25-year-old achieve a ninth-placed finish at the IPC World Championships in 2012.

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But snowboarding wasn't financially viable for Raubenheimer, who was born in East London in South Africa and lived there before moving to New Zealand when he was 10, as he juggled the sport with his former profession as a full-time chef at Regatta in Takapuna.

Raubenheimer switched from para-snowboarding to para-cycling in 2014.
Dianne Manson

Raubenheimer switched from para-snowboarding to para-cycling in 2014.

But Raubenheimer quit the kitchen for the track, and he's been competing on the world circuit since last year. He finished ninth at this year's World Championships in Italy.

Paralympics New Zealand first approached him to try para-cycling. He said the transfer of skills between snowboarding and cycling wasn't too difficult.

"[The skills] transfer themselves pretty easily. They're quite similar in regards to leg strength and core strength," said Raubenheimer.

Raubenheimer competing in the Snowboard Cross Adaptive Standing Men event at the Winter Games in Wanaka in 2011.
Hannah Peters

Raubenheimer competing in the Snowboard Cross Adaptive Standing Men event at the Winter Games in Wanaka in 2011.

"It was more just a case of crossing that over to cycling and getting my muscles working for cycling.

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"The whole balancing and cornering came across pretty naturally, so that probably helped me progress quite quickly."

Raubenheimer was born with paraxial fibular hemimelia, which is an absence of the fibula.

He is also missing two toes on his right foot and his right leg is three inches shorter than his left.

When he was 12, Raubenheimer's right leg was amputated below the knee, which he said 'was the best decision' he ever made.

The Paralympics in Tokyo in 2020 was originally the target for Raubenheimer, who now resides in Auckland.

But his performances on the world stage saw him selected for this year's Games in Rio.

"It was awesome to see the calibre of athletes I was up against, and to finish in the top 10 was pretty incredible after just a few years in the sport."

TRIPLE WORLD CHAMPIONS

New Zealand tandem riders Thompson (left) and Foy (right) are good odds for gold in Rio. CHRISTEL YARDLEY/FAIRFAX NZ

Foy and Thompson head to Rio with three consecutive world titles in the women's B 3km pursuit on the track.

But the pair, who train together in Cambridge, have been successful in other events, and they'll compete on the track in the 3km pursuit and the 1km time trial on the track, as well as on the road in the time trial and the road race.

Thompson, 29, has been a sighted pilot for seven years with Paralympics NZ and first teamed up with Foy, 27, in 2014.

They've since become best friends and world champions, with the Games in Rio the pinnacle of their careers.

Born in Dargaville, Foy is visually impaired, after she was born with ocular cutaneous, which affects her skin, hair and eyes. 

"I think we're really lucky to train and be able to do what we do," said Foy. 

"I love cycling and I love competing, and I've probably made one of my best friends in Laura."

Their first world championships together were in Mexico in 2014, where they won gold in world record time.

Foy's rapid rise to the top bracket of para-cycling is remarkable given it's been such a quick transition from her younger days, where she tried a range of sports, including karate and athletics.

AT A GLANCE:

Name: Byron Raubenheimer

Age: 25

Event: Cycling

Classification: C4

Disability: Single limb deficiency

Record: 9th in this year's UCI Para-Cycling Track World Championships.

Personal: Former full-time chef at Regatta in Takapuna.

AT A GLANCE:

Names: Emma Foy and Laura Thompson (sighted pilot)

Ages: 27 and 29

Event: Cycling

Classification: BVI

Disability: Visual Impairment

Record: World champions in Women's B 3km pursuit in 2016, 2015 and 2014.

Personal: Foy is studying psychology. Thompson's been a pilot for seven years after she had played basketball.

 - Stuff

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