24th Aug 2012 12:16pm | By Editor
The London 2012 Paralympic Games are the biggest yet – more tickets have been sold than for any other Paralympics, with a record number of competitors from across the world travelling to the UK to compete.
With the recent Olympics considered one of the best ever, all eyes and expectations will be on the Paralympians. No pressure, then.
“We actually have a team psychologist that has been discussing that with us,” New Zealand Paralympic cycling medal hope Nathan Smith, 34, reveals of NZ’s preparations from his north Italy training camp. “He’s just been to the Olympics and the Velodrome and he said: ‘I can’t tell you to shut out the crowd, you’re just going to have to realise it’s out of your control. Focus on what you can control, your training, how you’re going to approach the race and trust what you’ve been doing the last few months’.”
For Smith, as well as the other 26 members of NZ’s Paralympics squad, the last few months have been a slog
of hard work to give them the best possible chance of achieving their London 2012 goals.
“Since we had the [UCI Paracycling] World Champs in February in LA, it’s been six days a week, with monthly velodrome camps. Fitting in a full-time job too is tough.”
Paralympics New Zealand’s ‘Xcellerate 2 Xcellence’ project, launched in 2009 after Beijing, identified and shepherded promising talents towards London 2012, Smith among its protégés. The months of preparation, and the two-week Italian training camp, have given him a platform to launch for medal glory, London providing a better opportunity for the 34-year-old than Beijing did four years ago.
“I missed out [then] as I had a few crashes on the track, and I also found out that my wife was going to have our first baby on the week of the Games,” he recalls of his decision not to put himself up for 2008’s Olympics.
“I am a lot more confident now than I was then. Leading up to Beijing, I wasn’t going to have a shot at the medals. But this year, I am a good shot to get on the podium in the C3 pursuit, and also in the time trial and the road race, too.”
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