Thursday 25 December 2014

Readle continues remarkable journey

Published 24/07/2014 | 11:39

Northern Ireland tandem rider Dave Readle, left, has had a colourful journey to the Commonwealth Games
Northern Ireland tandem rider Dave Readle, left, has had a colourful journey to the Commonwealth Games

There are bigger names at Glasgow 2014 and there are surer medal prospects, but few can match Northern Ireland tandem rider Dave Readle for overcoming adversity on the way to the Commonwealth Games.

Readle will pilot visually impaired team-mate James Brown in the para-cycling disciplines starting on Friday, marking the culmination of a remarkable journey.

He has suffered devastating injuries, long periods out of competitive sport during which he retrained as a psychologist and even now is battling a form of skin cancer, but will line up at the Sir Chris Hoy Velodrome having achieved an ambition that so often looked impossible.

Liverpool-born Readle was first close to qualifying as a shot-putter for the 2002 Commonwealths in Manchester when he was forced out of contention in brutal fashion.

"I ripped my pectoral muscle clean off my chest while bench-pressing before the 2002 Games. At the time, I was well on course to earn a place," he told Press Association Sport.

"It killed, really bad. It's a really rare injury - only a small percentage of people have done it, but you certainly know about it when it happens.

"After that I took a year out, completed my studies in the United States and started working to become a teacher."

A simple life in the classroom was never on the cards for Readle, though, and he soon found an opportunity to put himself to use at a newly expansive British Cycling.

Feted sports psychiatrist Dr Steve Peters was already consulting with the organisation and soon found a willing protege.

"I went to Steve and said, verbatim, 'how do I do what you do?'. I basically said 'give me a job'," Readle explained.

"If it wasn't for Steve and his advice, I could never have had the chance to pursue the career I did. He was very supportive.

"I began working for British Cycling as a performance psychologist in 2008 and I just started riding, almost at random. I just had a go.

"I was that bad they were laughing at me at the track. They actually told me I needed to go away and learn to ride a bike.

"But I got back on. It was an unusual start, but I ended up making the 2009 world championships and I won a silver medal (in the tandem 1,000m time-trial)."

Despite that success, constraints on time and finances forced Readle to prioritise his psychology career and, at London 2012, he was among the Olympic and Paralympic support staff rather than among the competitors.

It was Readle, memorably, who tried in vain to calm Jody Cundy during his infamous meltdown in the velodrome.

Then, at the start of this year, he received the call from Brown and invited to make a comeback as his tandem pilot.

It was a chance he could not turn down, even if it meant putting back his latest treatment for ongoing skin cancer.

"I've been undergoing treatment but I decided to defer the latest lot," he added. "They'll be coming to cut some more out of me after the Games.

"But this was the opportunity of a lifetime. It's an honour and a privilege to be involved.

"Over a lifetime of being told you can't do things, I've learned anything is possible. It's perseverance, the ability to take knocks and dust yourself down - it's never giving up.

"If the outcome for me is a medal, great. If not, then that's fine as well because I get the bigger picture.

"For me it is more about being able to share and enjoy the Commonwealth Games with all the people who've helped and supported me and all the other athletes I've worked with over the years."

Press Association

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