He’s aiming to bring home a gold medal – but Neil Fachie admits just being on the start line when the Paralympics begin in three months’ time will be an achievement in itself.
The games in Tokyo are scheduled to get under way on August 24 with Aberdeen cyclist Fachie and pilot Matt Rotherham looking to win gold in the Tandem B 1KM time-trial.
Challenges to overcome in the build-up
There have been plenty of hurdles for the organisers of the event and competitors to overcome in their preparations.
The pandemic resulted in the Olympics and Paralympics being pushed back a year and, in Japan, there remains opposition to the games taking place.
For athletes, a lack of competition in the build-up has been an issue.
Fachie hasn’t raced competitively since winning the 1KM time-trial at the World Championships in February 2020.
The closest he’s come to competitive action is simulation races in training and, when the 37-year-old considers all these factors, he feels just being able to compete in Tokyo will be a great thing.
He said: “For the Games to happen would be a big thing, for me to be there would be incredible as well.
“I’m confident as well that, if we get there, it will be an incredible event and we can do well.
“The extra year has given a lot of the other nations an opportunity to catch up and there are some really exciting prospects.
“I think there will be some incredible performances and, with where we are just now, I think we can be top of the pile.
“In order to win, the world record – which is currently mine – will have to be broken as well and I want to be the one to hold on to that record.
“I think it will be a great event and I just want to be part of it and win it as well.”
Spectre of virus hangs over preparations
The risk of catching Covid-19 could also impact on Fachie’s chances in Tokyo and, as lockdown restrictions ease, he admits potentially contracting the virus is a concern.
His condition, retinitis pigmentosa, means he is unable to drive and thus travels to training at the Manchester Velodrome using public transport.
Fachie has noticed things getting busier and knows that catching Covid-19 between now and departing for Japan could derail his bid for gold.
He added: “You can’t really afford to miss many training sessions.
“We’ve spoken about getting the vaccine and how you might feel rubbish for a few days after it and miss a couple of training sessions.
“That would be a small price to play in the long term, but, if you caught Covid and had to spend time in self-isolation, that could have a big impact at this stage.
“It’s something that would be in the back of your mind, even if you make it to the games, about the impact 10 days in self isolation might have had.
“We’ve also heard about long Covid as well and as an athlete that is a worry as well, because if your health is affected there will be an obvious knock in performance.
“I was aware when I was coming home from training the other day that the tram was busier than it’s been.
“It’s definitely still out there and we need to be cautious, but we still need to travel to train, so I can’t just lock myself in the house.
“At this stage everything is OK and as we get closer it’s just about being vigilant as a team, because if one person was to get it we could all be out potentially, which would be a disaster.
“As we get closer to the Games, we’ll probably be more and more paranoid about it, but it’s one of those things.”
Testing times in Tokyo
Contracting coronavirus in the lead up to the Paralympics is one fear, but Fachie admits he’s also concerned about testing positive when in Japan.
There will be regular testing at the games and he hopes nobody ends up testing positive after reaching Tokyo.
One positive for Fachie is that he expects to receive his Covid vaccine soon, which will increase his protection from the virus.
He said: “In terms of going to Japan, we’ll be tested out there regularly and, if you do produce a positive test, then your games will be over, which is a real worry.
“You could spend five years preparing and then pick up Covid from somewhere and you’re finished, which would be heartbreaking when you’re that close.
“Vaccines are also coming into play and one of of the benefits of being an older athlete is that I’m now eligible for the vaccine.
“I’m hoping to get it very soon and that would make me feel a bit happier for flying out and I think it makes you less susceptible, which is good.”