British Cycling Heroes - Jason Queally
At 25, Lancashire lad Jason Queally, MBE, came to track cycling at a relatively late age. His sporting talents were first recognised not on dry land but in the swimming pool - where he represented both Lancaster and British Universities at Water Polo. With the intention of 'having a go' at a Triathlon, within 6 months of his initial effort Queally had met the national cycling standard for 'the kilo' - 1 km time trial event. (An event he would peak at a few years later). It could have been so different. In 1996 Queally nearly died in an accident at Edinburgh's Meadowbank cycling track. Coming off his bike, an 18-inch sliver of wood - from the track, entered his chest through his armpit. This horrific injury almost put paid to thoughts of racing - but after months of rehabilitation he returned to the track more determined than ever. With the introduction of lottery funded athletes in 1997, it turned out Queally was in the right place at the right time - as well as having the talent and drive to be a champion.......
Queally came to the general public's attention during the Sydney Olympics in 2000. Here he won a gold medal in the 1km track event. He competed in the subsequent World Championships and commonwealth events winning silver medals at these competitions over the next 4 years. In 2001 Queally competed in Nevada at the World Human Powered Speed Challenge. Here he rode a specially designed recumbant bike, made largely from carbon fibre by UK firm Reynard Motorsport (better known for their racing car chassis). He recorded 103.55 km over a 200 meter timed section of the course - and in doing so managed to set a new European record. (The winner was Candian Sam Whittingham who clocked an amazing 133.28 km. Whittingham also holds a number of other speed records achieved on his recumbant bcycle).
At the 2004 Athens Olympics Queally rode in the team sprint, only to be eliminated by the eventual winners Germany, despite posting the second fastest time of the competition. Then at the Beijing games Queally missed out to a place in the Team Spint to Jason Kenny, who was just 1/10th second quicker in qualification.
Last December he was honoured by British Cycling by being one of 50 people recognised in its inaugral Hall of Fame.......and so as one door closes another opens. 2004 may have been Queally's last appearance in an Olympics as an able-bodied athlete - but London 2012 potentially offers him the chance of representing GB as a paralympian. So how has this come about?
Well Queally has paired up with partially-sighted and double gold medalist from Beijing, Anthony Kappes. The event is the tandem kilo - and team Queally-Kappes are not only looking for gold in a couple of years time but also to beat the able-bodied world record to boot. Queally's ambition to be a winner should not be underestimated - despite turning 40 later this year. He says, "My avenue with the elite team was over, I wasn't quick enough, I was getting too old........I had a long think about what direction I wanted to go in next – and I really wanted to carry on riding and competing and a mechanism which has enabled me to do that is to ride tandem with a paralympian. That in all honesty is why I took up tandem." Kappes, 36, a former fell runner, is equally determined. He realised something was wrong with his eyesight when he started "running into rocks down mountain sides". Over the last 10 years his eye-sight has deteriorated - but has found his new niche in the velodrome. Although both men train as individuals and have different coaches they both share the desire to be the best. It also demonstrates how far paralympics sport - and cycling has come. So look out for Queally-Kappes later this year - and all being well they will be spear-heading the gold rush in 2012.
Telegraph on-line 'Jason Queally riding towards London 2012 Paralympics' by Gareth A. Davies
Thumbnail photo credit: BBC Sport