The Journey And Those Who Made It Happen!
It was with absolute delight I received the news that Damien Vereker had been selected for the Irish National Paralympic Squad for the Rio Para Olympic Games 2016.
The Road to Rio began in 2013 when I was approached by Tommy Fanning of Comeragh Cycling Club wanting to know if I would help pilot Damien for 1 or 2 races on the tandem. A trial spin to see how we would get on led to a 16km TT the next day in Blarney. It was a great experience, something we both really enjoyed and so that is where it all began.
I started coaching Damien with no real plan; it was basically just to see where we would go with it. I received a lot of help from Ronan Clinton, and the Focus on Fitness crew; taking Damien out on the bike, collecting him for spinning classes / turbo training and helping with him in the gym on the watt bike. From here things started to progress.
In 2013 Damien was awarded the most improved rider in the Invacare league. 2014 we won the Invacare league and in 2015 we were runners up. We started to compete at international races and with some fund raising it allowed us to upgrade the bike and we progressed on some more.
A big thank you to the many people and organisations that helped along the way.
Sinéad Power, Comeragh CC and all the pilots from the club.
John Nolan and Macushield
Everyone who helped out with the fund raising events that were organised over the last 3 years including the Spinathon in City Square followed by a night in the Mansion House.
Jim O’Brien, Brian Jacob, Eoin Lyons, David Connolly, John Maher, Siobhan Kennedy, Brian O’Sullivan and Ronan Clinton who completed a Tandem cycle from Malin Head to Waterford in just over 12 hours in sub-zero temperatures late December 2015.
To all who took part in the Human Race Night earlier this year and Kilcohan Greyhound Stadium for facilitating the night.
Thank you to everyone who gave spot prizes, sold tickets, and supported the events; you all had a hand in this great achievement.
but not least Marcin Mizgajski without him this would not have been a reality and we are forever grateful. Marcin took the reins 12 months ago to pilot the bike and finish off a job that was beyond what I could do and what a job he did. Damien & Marcin went to a C1 event in Bilbao and finished first Irish bike, Prague a few weeks later and got 3rd overall. Marcin’s dedication, cycling ability and attention to detail was second to none.
We were lucky enough to be able to upgrade the bike with help from a truly great and inspirational person; you know who you are, from the bottom of our hearts thank you so very much.
The UCI World Cup was held in South Africa in horrendous conditions; this brought a Gold Medal. Marcin was the final piece of the jigsaw that was needed to do this job……..take a bow Sir!
It was a bitter disappointment when we were informed Marcin would not be piloting the bike for Damien in Rio. Sadly this is the nature of the sport and Marcin has been very gracious and vowed to help all the way to the end.
I wish the best of luck to Damien and his pilot Sean Hahessy with whatever comes next. It was a roller-coaster ride with so many highs lows and a lot of hard work. Thank you to everyone who was involved in the journey and made this dream become a reality.
For Focus on Fitness this was a journey that has given me great satisfaction both personally and professionally. Damien was and still is an absolute pleasure to coach, travel with and race with – “Through dedication success WILL come”.