Motorbike crash survivor Mark Rohan wins gold back in saddle
THEY TELL you to get back on the bike. They don’t necessarily tell you to get on your back when you’re on that bike. Or, if they do, they don’t – can’t – expect you to be stronger and faster and better than everyone else who does the same.
Yet that’s what Mark Rohan was on the sweating tarmac of Brands Hatch yesterday when he won Ireland’s sixth gold medal of the Paralympics.
Rohan (31), from Ballinahown, Co Westmeath, was an intercounty under-21 footballer before a motorbike accident in November 2001 broke bones in his back, chest, legs and feet, tore his aorta and left him paralysed from the chest down.
Yesterday, he followed two world hand-cycling titles from last year with gold in the biggest competition of his life. “I can’t explain it,” he said afterwards. “I’m overwhelmed. I’m just so delighted for the whole team; for Denis Twomey [team manager], coach Brian Nugent, the mechanics and the whole country. I’m just delighted to be able to get a medal, to give it all back.
“There was a lot of expectation on myself on current form to deliver a medal and I did it. Just delighted.”
It brings the Irish medal tally to 13 – six gold, two silver and five bronze – with more almost certainly in the post over the coming days.
The gruelling 8km track at Brands Hatch was tough for everybody in the baking heat but the hand-cyclists had it especially hard. The sun blazed into their eyes on the steepest part of the course about 1,800m from home.
Rohan came to it just out of the gold medal spot but he emptied everything he had into the rest of the route and won by 11 seconds. He returns tomorrow for the road race over six laps of the same track, favourite again on the back of his world championship double last year.
It meant enjoying the victory ceremony just before 6pm yesterday but boxing it off there and then.
“I have about 36 hours until the next race,” he said. “As soon as we leave here, I have a recovery session of about 30 or 40 minutes – get food into me, get back to the village and then just chill.
“So it’s hard to celebrate because in 36 hours we’re going to go again and hopefully I can repeat the success of today.”