Being able to pick yourself up after a setback is a sign of a true sportsperson, but for Benjamin Pritchard the setback involved taking up a whole new sport.
Before he crashed in a race in September 2016, Pritchard was rising through the domestic cycling ranks, having signed with a domestic team for the 2017 season, and performing strongly in time trials in particular.
Previously, the Swansea native represented Great Britain in age-group triathlon events, competing at the European Championships and the World Triathlon Grand Final in 2013.
Months of rehabilitation for a spinal injury experienced in the September crash have ended Pritchard’s hopes of riding for Spokes BPC Racing in 2017, but his time at Stoke Mandeville Hospital kick started a new love affair with adaptive rowing.
“I can’t say that I loved rowing from the first time I tried it, because I hated it. But it was the fact that while I was in hospital it gave me something to compete at and I wanted to push myself.
“I love the taste of iron you get in your mouth from rowing – it was very similar to what you’d get after a time trial on a bike. The main reason why I liked rowing more than other sports [I tried after my injury] is that it got me out of the wheelchair, and that’s the biggest thing for me. Rowing allows me to get out of my chair and feel more free.”
Pritchard had hoped to race as a domestique in National A and B cycling races in 2017, with sponsors TrueStart, Zone 3, GLL and Wattshop backing his dream.
His sponsors have continued their support throughout his rehabilitation and into his new journey in Para-rowing. Instead of racing a state-of-the-art racing bike, Pritchard is now looking to win on the water in a specially adapted rowing boat.
And it was his competitive nature and desire to push himself to his limits that drove him to fall in love with rowing at the National Spine Injuries centre in Stoke Mandeville, where sport plays a large part in patients’ rehabilitation.
“I remember the first time I cried after the crash,” he said. “At Stoke Mandeville they give you this timetable and I could see that sport was on a Tuesday.
“I thought if I could make it until Tuesday I would be okay. I got to Tuesday and wheeled myself to the gym, but there was a sign saying that sport had been cancelled. I was in the corridor and I just burst into tears. It broke me; it was the lowest point I had in my entire journey.”
He added: “I think being competitive and having a sport to look for in the future helped me strive to get through the recovery quicker. Being a goal-oriented person has aided my recovery because I would set my own goals and want to make them. Rather than have the physio tell what I should do, I was telling them what I wanted to do.”
Click here to find out more about getting involved in adaptive rowing and the British Rowing Paralympic Pathway.