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Profile: Give me wings, let us fly high
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11:24, September 10, 2008

Everybody stood up waving banners to bravo the amazing world record set by British blind cyclist Aileen McGlynn and her pilot Ellen Hunter at Paralympic women's 1km time trial, but nobody except themselves knows how much they endured on the way to the top.

Wearing red and blue stripes helmets showing their class, McGlynn, 35, and Hunter, 39, scorched round the 1km circuit chasing the previous best time set by Australia's Felicity Johnson two minutes ago.

To the roar of thousands of spectators cramming the Laoshan Velodrome, they sped up at the last circle and rushed across the terminal nearly one second ahead of closet rivals to grab the gold, smashing both world and Paralympic records going under one minute and 10 seconds for the first time ever.

"She's really coming back strong," Hunter said of her visually impaired partner, adding she always loves to give her wings to feel the outside world.

In Paralympic track cycling, an accredited cyclist like Hunter, known as the pilot, rides on the front of the bike while the visually impaired athlete pedals at the rear.

Experienced tandem cyclists say finding the perfect partner is key to performing well. American cyclist Matt King, a visually impaired engineer, says the process is like "finding a prom date -- you court them a little bit and then you're rolling."

Cyclists are required to find pilots who perform at similar levels, says Anthony Yorke, chairman of the Cycling Sports Committee of the International Paralympic Committee.

"We want to make sure the pilot isn't too good...the blind person should be the focus of the competition," Yorke said.

Two days after McGlynn and Hunter's clear-cut victory, they received another gold of their second Paralympic trip in women's tandem cycling.

"It's like flying on the track," said McGlynn, who felt to grasp Hunter's hand after they rode across the terminal line, cheering together with the crowd the memorable win.

"We knew we could win. Also we don't want to push ourselves so much," she said, adding it meant a lot to them to defend it.

"Both of us trained really really hard over the years...But the glory today is always worthwhile," said McGlynn with bright smiles.

"She (McGlynn) is experienced and knows the way of track," said Hunter. "We don't actually say anything during the race... but we knew and trust each other so well, and well prepared of what to do."

Teamed up for six years, the pair had tasted tremendous hardships to live up to the big success. The day after Hunter discovered she qualified for the Athens Paralympics, she broke her back in a cycling accident. Doctors said she would never walk again.

Starting from scratch, Hunter and McGlynn trained even harder in the following season for their first international debut at Athens. Later they were overjoyed with a gold and a silver at the Athens Paralympics, even setting a new world record in 1km time trial of the B/VI class.

"After I broke my back, I became more competitive and realized I wanted to win more than I thought," Hunter said.

Ealier this year, the duo carried on their gold rush in the Paralympic Cycling World Cup in Manchester of Britain.

Source: Xinhua

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