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‘It means everything’ – Strathpeffer cyclist Fin Graham thrilled with dream debut at Tokyo Paralympics

Fin Graham.
Fin Graham.

Fin Graham smashed the oldest record in para-cycling and then saw his new mark broken 20 minutes later, ending up with silver after a dream Paralympic debut.

The Strathpeffer star brought down the C3 3000m individual pursuit record, set by Russia’s Alexey Obydennov at high altitude in 2014, in the qualifying round at Izu Velodrome.

Graham clocked 3:19.780, breaking Obydennov’s record by an amazing margin of nearly seven seconds.

The Scot barely had time to celebrate, however, when moments later team-mate Jaco van Gass blasted his way to a new all-time best of 3:17.593.

“It means everything,” said the 26-year-old. “Even if it was only for a short time, it’s so nice to say that I’ve broken the world record at the Paralympics. That tops it off.

“The extra year has given me the time to prepare to do that. If the Games was last year, I wouldn’t have been in a good position to do that.

“At the beginning of lockdown last year, it was hard but I was able to have a bit of time to enjoy riding my bike and then properly get back into it.

“It’s given me an extra focus to go for it and I knew I was in a good place; it was just a case of going out and doing it on the day.

“All the coaching behind the scenes has helped me towards the goal, everyone has played their part and I’ve done the easy bit of riding my bike.”

Fin Graham

The Paralympics GB pair faced off in the final, with Van Gass taking victory by a narrow margin of 1.13 seconds in a winning time of 3:20.987.

“I wouldn’t want to lose to anyone else,” said Graham, who was born with bilateral club feet, which leaves him with no calf muscle and little to no movement in his ankles.

“It’s great to share the podium with Jaco – we’ve been basically living together for the last two months and training with him is amazing.”

Graham has always been passionate about cycling but only moved to track racing in 2017, learning his trade at the Chris Hoy Velodrome.

He left Dingwall Academy in that year to relocate to Manchester and train full-time on the British Cycling programme, making his international debut at World Cup level in 2019.

Graham had only raced the 3km distance twice at major events, finishing fourth at the 2019 World Championships and fifth in 2020, before riding his way into the history books.

Thirty-five-year-old Van Gass, who suffered life-changing injuries when hit by a grenade on active service in Afghanistan in 2013, felt Graham played his part in his own gold medal performance.

“All the praise goes to Finn, he pushed me really hard,” said van Gass.

“To be honest, the 3:19 was my aim and then he rode it, so I had to recalculate and go faster!

“He pushed me really hard in the final. I was on my last legs to be very honest. He’s ridden fantastically and is a great team-mate.”

It was a successful day for Britain’s cyclists Jody Cundy and Aileen McGlynn also winning silvers.

Cundy became the first man to win medals at seven separate Paralympics, as Spain’s Alfonso Cabello Llamas took the C4-5 1000m time trial title from him with a new world record of 1:01.577.

Silver for the 42-year-old, who began as a swimmer, came in a personal best time of 1:01.847 and brought an 11th trip to the podium across the two sports, where he briefly broke coronavirus protocol by hanging gold around his rival’s neck.

“It’s the medal I won in Rio and just to pass on the medal to him, feels like passing on the baton,” said Cundy.

“Nobody ever wants to win a silver medal but I didn’t lose the gold, I won the silver medal. I did a personal best and was beaten by the better person.”

Visually impaired rider McGlynn started the medal rush with her pilot Helen Scott by coming second in the women’s B 1000m time trial with a personal best of 1:06.743.

The pair only reunited 12 weeks ago, having previously won a silver and bronze together at London 2012.

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