Silver medal a great birthday present for Whangārei para cyclist

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A visually-impaired Northland cyclist, with help from his pilot and trainer, not only collected silver in a national para cycling race, but beat his last year’s record by 15 minutes.

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Kyren Andrew and his pilot/trainer Kurt Coetzee from Whangārei finished runners-up in the time trial and the road race.

Andrew, who is totally blind, said while he was equally prepared for both the races, he was looking forward to “smashing” the time trial one.

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The team was the fastest tandem combination but since there were male and female categories, Andrew and Coetzee had to settle for second place in the B/IV category at Cycling New Zealand 2022 Age Group Road Nationals in Hokitika last week.

Coetzee said since there were not many tandem riders in the vision-impaired category, there could not be separate categories and to win gold, they had to beat their opponent team by 16 minutes, but fell short by two minutes.

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They nearly called off their trip to Hokitika after a series of airport malfunctions and the uncertainty around Covid.

The competition only received the go-ahead when the traffic light system moved to orange on April 13, a week before the main event.

Coetzee said it was a stressful lead-up, and they weren’t even sure whether they needed to prepare for the race.

However, on the day of the trip, the bike wouldn’t fit in the box and they had to cut the box short at Whangārei airport.

Had their flight to Hokitika not been cancelled, they would not have had their bike until the next day and they would have missed the first race.

Andrew’s mother Raewyn Andrew said they almost thought of cancelling the trip, but went ahead as they had already missed a few competitions due to changing Covid-19 alert levels.

“We were booked to go to the paralympic camp in Christchurch last year but Northland was in lockdown at the time and we couldn’t go, followed by one in Hamilton earlier this year and we were in lockdown again.”

Cyclist Kyren Andrew and pilot Kurt Coetzee were second in the time trial and the road race. Photo / Supplied

The inception of the idea of going to the nationals happened during the same competition last year in which Kyren was third and his mother said he had only practised for a month before the competition.

Going forward, Raewyn said, they would have to find more races to go and since there was “not a lot” in the para cycling world in New Zealand, they were thinking of expanding their search and look for tandem races in Australia.

She thanked all the sponsors, who donated personally or through a Givealittle page, and Parafed Northland as well.

On Andrew’s training going forward, his pilot Coetzee said he had come a long way and their timing at the competition was 15 minutes faster than the previous year.

“He’s definitely making improvements.

“We are also starting to aim for the nationals next year. It will be cool to get gold since last year he got bronze and won silver this time, so it is only fitting.

“In terms of the number of races, there aren’t many for para cycling. There are big races we could go to as we develop as a team and there is a chance that after we have stepped up, they can go face the world.

“Eventually, the goal is to compete at the Paralympics.”

Andrew’s win coincided with his 17th birthday and Coetzee said getting silver was a perfect birthday gift for the cyclist.

“Now that Kyren is 17, we can start turning up the training, throw him in the gym and start doing some longer rides together.”

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