At the velodrome with Nick Clegg
Last month, Caroline Waugh carried the Olympic Torch and this week she was invited by Sheffield MP and Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg to the Paralympics.
Caroline decided to take me along as her guest, as through my work for CTC in Sheffield, I have helped her to ride a tricycle and also more recently encouraged her to ride a bicycle.
It was a very full and special day at the Velodrome. We were treated like VIPs. We met Lord Sebastian Coe, who is a local Sheffielder too and got to sit right by all the celebs and members of the Royal family!
Nick Clegg came and sat with us for about an hour. I was surprised how much he new about sport. We all chatted as though we had know each other for ages.
Caroline managed to bend his ear about the disability cycling at Hillsborough and got him to agree to come alone to one of our sessions! She is never one to miss an opportunity.
Then the women's individual C5 pursuit started with Sarah Storey in the final, Sarah out classed Anna Harkowska from Poland and she took gold with ease. It was so exciting to see Sarah Storey win Great Britain's first Gold Medal of the Paralympics!
I was amazed how the crowd was so supportive of all the teams but when Team GB came out, the roar was electrifying - I had goose bumps on the back of my neck.
CTC Cycling Development Officer
The session came to a close after the tandem time pursuit and the medal ceremony. We had a fantastic experience and Caroline had a great and full day. We got home to Sheffield after 11pm, tired but inspired and happy.
We arrived in London by train from Sheffield, fortunately I hadn’t got to walk too far to the Javelin - which is a rail link that took us to Stratford and the Olympic Park. Steve was wearing his CTC shirt and dark smart jeans with pride and I was in my new ‘Primani’ gear.
We met Kate, who was assigned to ‘chaperone’ us all day, So we could get VIP passes and eeeeek!!! (a blast from the past) a mobility scooter! I must admit it felt a bit strange resorting to that mode of transport, I had jokingly asked if Steve and I could share a tandem, but everyone seemed to laugh it off.
What a good job it was that I didn’t have to walk though the Olympic Par - it was a huge place.
We arrived at the Velodrome, and we’re taken to the bar, where food and drink was free. It all looked and tasted gorgeous, Kate came back with our drinks, tea for Steve and a bucket sized glass of wine for me! I caught Steve’s glare, but I needed some dutch courage!
We were joined by a guy who claimed to be Boris Johnson's PA, and he spoke incredibly like him. No one was asking him who he was, so I did!! And we swapped contact cards, he turned out to be his brother Leo Johnson.
I also saw Wendy Creed who I'd met at a cycling conference in Cornwall. She is a volunteer at the Velodrome. She ushered us to our seats, and gave us a piece paper which explained the different 5 categories.
Seb Coe joined our row of seats, and I looked at Steve, is that Lord Coe? Yes it was, was his reply.
Nick Clegg came and joined us, and it was like meeting a friend the way he approached me. He didn’t hold out his hand, he went to ‘air kiss me’ and give me a hug, it was lovely and very informal.
Inclusive Cycling has become my total passion. In the same way the Paralympians are totally dedicated to a cause and make sacrifices, I am striving to encourage others. All ability cycling is about independence which is something I hold dear to my heart.
I kept trying to steer the conversation towards the different Community Health Projects I am involved in and how beneficial they were to the economy. But Nick Clegg didn't really want to discuss any contentious issues. So we had a really ‘normal’ conversation, about children and Sheffield stuff.
I did suggest that we meet up back in Sheffield, for him to try the ‘side by side’ cycle with me in one of the parks. He seemed keen to do this, as I explained the benefits of this compared to a normal tandem.
I didn’t mean to sound like I was testing Nick Clegg but I asked him lots of questions. To be honest my brain had store so much stuff on the day, I couldn’t recall what disability Sarah Storey had, so I asked Nick, who eagerly provided me with a bit of her history. He explained how she had also qualified for the Paralympic swimming team, but her preferred discipline had been cycling.
Sarah Storey was so fast, she was obviously winning, and was a whole half track ahead by the finish. We all stood for the medals, and our National Anthem. I was very proud, to play a part in the moment.