2016 Paralympics goal for handcyclist Nicola Cundall

York Press: Nicola Cundall with her handcycle Nicola Cundall with her handcycle

SHE only took up cycling a few months ago – but is already eyeing a spot at Rio 2016.

Nicola Cundall is being earmarked for a Team GB berth in the Paralympics having quickly showed enormous pedigree in handcycling – where machines are powered by arm rather than leg – following a chance introduction to the sport.

In fact, barring a bit of wheelchair basketball, it is the first time she has got back into any sporting arena since an horrific car crash in 2004, which almost killed her and left her with no feelings in her legs.

Prior to the accident, the then York College student not only starred for York Vikings women’s basketball team, but also played various other sports such as football, hockey, cross-country running and rugby.

“I love it,” Cundall declared of her new-found passion. “I’ve missed sport so much since my accident.

“I have osteoporosis but, after I looked into it a bit more, I saw that one of the GB squad, Karen Darke, who won a medal at the London Paralympics, has it too and I thought if she can do it so can I.

“That’s definitely the goal now – getting to Rio. Four of us have got through the next stage (of trials) and that’s what we’re looking towards.”

The 27-year-old, who lives off Lawrence Street in York, is now training five or six days a week – on roads around York and on the track at Huntington Stadium – while also attending camps around the country in a bid to come up to Paralympic standard.

However, her Rio challenge will depend on funding, and as such sponsors are being sought. Olympic standard handcycles have to be specially built to fit the athlete and cost anything from £5,000 to manufacturer. Currently Cundall is using a machine borrowed off a GB coach.

Her employer, training company Get Ahead Ltd, which is based at York Science Park, is supporting her, and anyone else interested in helping or sponsoring her can phone her on 07530 503400 or Get Ahead on 01904 567618.

“I’ve borrowed a cycle for now but it doesn’t really fit me and I don’t know when I’ll have to give it back,” Cundall said. “They want us all to participate in national championships in April but I don’t know if I will have a cycle to be able to train or compete.”

The fact she is even dreaming of Rio comes as something of a shock.

She had virtually given up hope of playing proper sport again after suffering such serious spinal injuries, for which she received intense treatment with specialists at Pinderfields Hospital in Wakefield. But then came an email which could yet change her life.

She explained: “I went to university after coming out of hospital and I concentrated on that. I went to the gym at uni but that was it. I’d not done any sport for quite a while.

“But I’m a member of a group called Spine and I received an email saying they were looking for more women to get into the sport.

“Because of my background they put me through to a talent assessment day (in Cardiff) where they did fitness trials and watched us on a bike. It was the first time I’d been on one but they called the next day and said they wanted me to attend again.

“It was really hard – on the pictures I look absolutely done in – but it was great fun.”

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