If you are looking for inspiration from this year’s Rio Paralympics, then you don’t have to look much further than hand cyclist, Karen Darke.
Already a silver medallist at the 2012 London Paralympics and a Para-triathlon World Champion, Karen can now add gold to her medal collection, after winning cycling’s H1-3 time trial event with a time of 33 minutes 44.93 seconds.
Karen’s early interest in sport and being active was demonstrated in 1991 by climbing the Matterhorn and Mont Blanc and then a year later she went on to win the Swiss KIMM Mountain Marathon.
But her life was dramatically transformed in 1993 at the age of 21 when she was paralysed from the chest down in a climbing accident. However, she has never let her accident hold her back and has been involved with a variety of expeditions, such as skiing across Greenland and climbing El Capitan.
It was in 2009 that Karen first took up handbiking, joining the Great Britain Cycling Team a year later. It wasn’t long before Karen won bronze in the H2 road race and H2 time-trial. Following her success, she was selected for the London 2012 Paralympic Games, where she won silver.
Since the London 2012 Games, Karen has been a regular on the winners’ podium at many international sporting events. This includes winning a silver in the H3 time-trial and bronze medal in the H3 road race, at the road world championships in Greenville, USA.
Karen was so determined to be successful at the Rio Paralympics that she even asked the Williams Formula One team if they would help to improve her handbike. The team made the bike lighter and more aerodynamic to deal with the conditions she would be facing in Rio.
At this year’s Paralympics, Karen was hoping to take home another medal, but unfortunately a mechanical problem in her second competition forced her to retire from the race.
Aside from handbiking, Karen has been involved with many other adventures. She has twice been a para-triathlon World Champion and has also taken part in several Ironman competitions. She has even handbiked across Cuba.
Karen’s drive, passion and enthusiasm for not just sport, but for being independent and not allowing circumstances to hold her back is an inspiration to many.
Away from sport, Karen has also been keen to support initiatives to encourage personal mobility and independence for those living with a disability. In 2012 she opened the Gowrings Mobility factory in Thatcham, Berkshire, in her role as Ambassador.
People who are living with a disability can often feel restricted by the lack of wheelchair accessible transport that is available to them. But by buying a new or used wheelchair accessible vehicle from Gowrings Mobility, people can keep their independence and never have to worry about getting from A to B. Competitive hire rates are also available. For more information contact 0845 608 8020, 01635 588942 or get in touch online.