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Neil Fachie still determined to push para-sport legacy – without seeking the fame which comes with it

Neil Fachie enjoyed a memorable 2022. Image: Alex Whitehead/ (13483442bp)
Neil Fachie enjoyed a memorable 2022. Image: Shutterstock

Fame is not something which Aberdeen sporting legend Neil Fachie gives too much thought to, in spite of his ever-expanding gold-dominated medal collection.

Fachie has been a tour de force of para-cycling for a decade and more, setting new barometers for the competition to try to match.

At 38, he is not slowing down either – on or off the track.

He and wife Lora – a double Paralympic gold medallist in her own right – welcomed baby Fraser into the world in 2022, adding a new name to the strong Fachie lineage.

Being one of the most decorated British athletes is something he is rightly proud of and he may yet gild his legacy further before he eventually calls it a day.

But he is not shouting it from the rooftops.

“It’s not something I go round telling people on the street,” said Fachie. “I’m not that guy by any means.

“Equally, I’m aware of what it means for para-sport and that’s what makes me, when I hear about it, want to spread the word.

“If an athlete like myself – and I’ve no doubt athletes in the future will surpass what I’ve done – can be up on that level playing field, with some brilliant able-bodied athletes, it’s an absolute privilege.

“In terms of how comfortable I am sitting with it, I’m not the showy type by any means. I’m very down-to-earth away from cycling.

Scotland's Neil Fachie (left) and pilot Lewis Stewart celebrate with their gold medals after victory in the Men's Tandem B - 1000m Time Trial. Photo by John Walton/PA Wire.
Scotland’s Neil Fachie, left, and pilot Lewis Stewart celebrate with their gold medals after victory in the men’s tandem b – 1000m time trial. Photo by John Walton/PA Wire

“When I do get recognised in the street away from cycling – it doesn’t happen that often – I kind of don’t know what to say, to be honest.

“I don’t know how celebs do it. But I am pleased to be up there, as it’s not something I envisaged would ever happen.

“If I can try to push it any more, then I’m happy to, just in the name of forwarding para-sport, which is what I want to do.”

Another golden year – despite change and disruption at every turn

Considering the year of change Fachie has experienced, to emerge from it still Commonwealth and World champion is hugely to his credit.

His partnership with Lewis Stewart for Team Scotland at the Commies was a late call, after regular pilot Matt Rotherham instead rode with Wales’ James Ball.

The two pairings went head-to-head in two Commonwealth finals, splitting them one apiece – Fachie and Stewart took the 1km tandem B time trial, Ball and Rotherham the sprint – before Fachie and Rotherham reunited under the British Cycling banner to win gold in both disciplines at the World Championships.

“Even those races, there was a bit of uncertainty around them,” said Fachie. “A few days out from the Commonwealths I got ill – we thought I might have Covid.

“It got to the point where you think: ‘I’ve done all the work, am I going to get to finish it off?’ But I came through OK.

“With the World Championships there was a risk Lora would go into labour before I could race, so I wasn’t sure I would get out there.

“A week before the Worlds Matt Rotherham, who I was riding with, got Covid and we had to wait until he was clear.

“It’s been a bit of a weird one as nothing has really gone smoothly. But from where we were at the start of the year, thinking I had no one to ride with and calling round everyone to find someone with some ability to ride with.

“I was calling round Chris Hoy, Callum Skinner – all champions of the past – but it didn’t materialise.

“It’s been a challenge for sure. Manchester Velodrome has been shut for most of the year, so I’ve been travelling round the country for training, which has just added to it.”

Fachie not ‘quite there yet’ when it comes to retirement thoughts

Over the course of his international career, Fachie has often set the bar for excellence.

He continues to vie with bowler Alex Marshall for the most golds won by a Scottish athlete at the Commonwealth Games.

Fachie and Marshall both sit on five golds – the Aberdonian tied the mark on the opening day of this year’s games, but was beaten in the final of the tandem sprint, which would have seen him eclipse that tally.

“I wondered after having a baby, whether there would be any realignment in my goals,” added Fachie. “You often hear that, but I don’t know if I’m quite there yet.

“I have achieved, essentially, all the goals I envisaged I would.

“I’m painfully aware I’m one medal off the top for Team Scotland and it seems so annoyingly close, that you think you might as well try and see if you can get there.

“It’s still a while off (next Commonwealth Games) and there’s some big events before that.

“One thing I’ve not done is defend a Paralympic title – I won in London, but lost in Rio. I won it in Tokyo, so it would be nice to back that up in Paris.

“Other than that, it’s more about trying to stay ahead of my team-mates. Everyday is a case of looking over and thinking I need to keep upping my game, or I’m going to be surpassed.

“It would be nice to keep pushing the world records forward, to a point that they might last a wee while.

“These things tend to disappear – as soon as I leave the sport, I know someone will come along and take my records.

“But if I can set them as quick as I can, maybe they’ll hang around a bit longer.”