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Record-breaker Kenny among world's elite Paralympic cyclists
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21:33, September 09, 2008

Darren Kenny of Britain is among the world's elite Paralympic cyclists, taking a brace of gold medals at the Beijing Paralympic Games and in Athens back in 2004, as well as a flurry of records and World Cup wins throughout his cycling career.

His achievements have made him one of the sport's biggest stars.

Kenny triumphed in men's individual pursuit and 1km time trial of CP3 category, breaking both world records which were set by himself.

Darren, from Verwood near Bournemouth, has been involved in cycling since he was young, but an accident during a tour race looked to have put an end to his career.

"I started racing when I was eleven, through till the age of 19, then I stopped till I was about 30 when I started again after becoming disabled and putting on loads of weight," said Kenny.

"I injured my neck in a crash in the tour of Ireland, coming down Wicklow Gap descending. I didn't really leave enough time to recover, and I never really realized until recently how much damage I'd done to my neck and it just meant that I wasn't at the level I wanted to be at and it was a question of more and more time off.

However, after a hiatus, Darren did eventually return to his bike, initially just as an aid to his fitness.

It didn't take him long to get the bug back, and he slowly found himself returning to the racing fraternity.

"I wanted to get a bit fitter, I thought that by losing weight it would make my life easier with being disabled, and cycling was the only thing I knew really.

"It's also good in that my weight is supported and everything. I went out a few times, started bumping into people from the old days so you've got groups to go out with and the social aspect as well."

However, as Darren pointed out it wasn't all plain sailing.

"In your head you can still race, and it spurs you on when you don't do very well. You start thinking I've got to knuckle down and do a bit more."

Although Darren can look back on those early days with a knowing smile, he's fully aware of the hard work he had to put in to get to this opportunity.

Just getting onto the Paralympic team was difficult enough for him.

"I'd been cycling again for nearly two years before I found out about the Paralympic side of things. That was only by chance as I hadn't started with the intention of doing so, it was a way of making my life easier.

"Had I found out about it earlier in my first few years when I'd have been nowhere near the standard, then I did and the opportunities that were there I trained a lot harder and putting a lot more into it and I managed to win the national championships that year, but I wasn't anywhere near the standard for world level.

"I managed to get to the standard required to join the world class performance plan, get the proper coaching and back-up and everything. I suppose two years on the plan led me to Athens, by Athens I was absolutely pinging!"

Kenny packaged two golds in Beijing. He both won titles and broke world records in men's CP3 1km time trial and individual pursuit.

Just moments earlier Kenny had seen his teammate Rik Waddon take two seconds off the world record Kenny set at the 2007 World Championships in France. If he needed any incentive to burn the track down, this was it.

"I feel like flying on the track," said Kenny, "It's just fantastic. It's really nice. It is a little bit difficult race. And especially my teammate is also there in the same race. There are your main competitors. You want them to do well. Both my teammate and I will be on the podium. The new record is what we all expected to.

"My most memorable moment would be my first gold medal in Athens. I don't even think it was pleasant!

"Unbelievable amount of pressure going into the event, I was one of the favorites, you don't realize how much pressure it is until it's over.

"I remember getting on the start line, looking up at the fifty foot high screen they've got with a close-up of my face, with about five seconds to go... it was like 'Oh Christ!'"


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