Paralympic cyclist may miss Games after car hits bike

Double amputee Rachel Morris left with whiplash and shoulder injuries after crash

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The Independent Online

A British Paralympic cyclist's hopes of competing at the London Games are in doubt after she was hit by a car during a road race time trial.

Rachel Morris had been on course to defend her Paralympic title this summer before the accident in Guildford on Thursday left her with whiplash and shoulder injuries. Ms Morris, 33, is a double amputee, and has had treatment from the British Cycling team doctor but may not recover in time for the Games, which start in 50 days.

She suffers from reflex sympathetic dystrophy (RSD), a condition that results from a malfunctioning nervous system, and causes extreme pain and swelling in affected limbs.

In Ms Morris's case, both her legs had to be amputated. The condition makes it particularly difficult to recover from impact injuries. "The bike went up into the air. I remember looking across and I was aware that I was at the same height as the passengers in a car passing in the outside lane," said Ms Morris.

"This has totally screwed me up. I feel like everything I've worked for has been taken away. I can't imagine not being there, but I know how long it has taken me to recover from this type of injury before, and it was longer than I now have before the Games."

Her case will be taken up by British Cycling's personal injury solicitors. The organisation said it is "concerned that these incidents are often not adequately investigated and prosecuted".

It described Ms Morris as "a cornerstone of the GB cycling team's Paralympic squad for a number of years". She has also twice won the world championship time trial, and won the road race event in 2010, and competes in sailing at international level. Martin Gibbs, British Cycling's director of policy and legal affairs, said: "This is an illustration of how the road safety issues which we are campaigning on are vital to all cyclists, from elite competitors like Rachel to anyone who rides to keep fit or to get from A to B."

Sarah Storey, the seven-times Paralympic champion in swimming and cycling, tweeted: "So gutted to hear my team-mate Rachel Morris has been hit by a car whilst racing a Time Trial. This is now happening too often."

Last August, another leading British Paralympic cyclist suffered serious injuries while on a training ride in Wales.

Simon Richardson, who won two gold medals and a silver at the Beijing 2008 Games, broke his back in the incident. He hopes to return to racing next year. Richardson initially became involved in Paralympic sport after a car struck his bike in 2001, after which he lost the use of his left leg.

Hero swaps the battlefield for the sports field

Private Derek Derenalagi, who lost his legs in Afghanistan five years ago, is among 49 athletes named in the Team GB Paralympic squad. He was born in Fiji and joined the British Army in 1999. When his vehicle was blown up by two mines in 2007 he was pronounced dead, but recovered and has become the UK's best Paralympic shot putter and discus thrower, winning gold at the European Championships in the discus.

"I don't regret losing my legs because I did it serving this country and doing something I love," he said. "To represent Britain in a home games and compete in that awesome stadium will be a dream come true."

Tom Peck