Exclusive interview with Libby Clegg: ‘I thought cycling would be so much easier

Author: | Posted in Sports No comments

Given the logistical headache involved in her new career, it’s no wonder an apologetic Libby Clegg is a little late for our scheduled chat at Manchester National Cycling Center.

For most of her adult life, Clegg’s commute involved no more than a five-minute jump from her home in Loughborough to the local athletics track. From last week, it has become a three-hour cross-country hike involving two trains and a tram before making the same journey again in the evening.

An overly grueling ride for her beloved guide dog Hatti, it leaves one of Britain’s most successful visually impaired athletes with only his white cane for guidance. “I was not thinking about logistics,” she admits to the sheep about her decision to launch stage two of her sports career.

For more than a decade, Clegg was one of the most recognizable and decorated para-athletes in Britain. Paralympic sprint silver medals in 2008 and 2012 preceded double gold in 2016, before a final silver marked the finish in Tokyo this summer. At the age of 31 and with four Paralympic Games behind her, she announced her athletics retirement.

Still, she’s a little more than two months behind, she’s back with a fixed eye on Paris 2024. Athlete Clegg has become cyclist Clegg. At least she will be in her time. Today is only the third time she has been to a velodrome.

“I had not ridden a bicycle for years when my eyesight was better and I was able to cycle alone,” says Clegg, who has degenerative eye disease Stargardt’s disease.

“Athletics has so many little technical things that make a big difference. I do not know why, but I thought cycling would be so much easier. It is not!

“It’s far more complicated than I first thought, even though I’m pretty happy because I do not have to steer the bike – I just do as the pilot says. However, I close my eyes because it’s scary. “

Her learning curve is steep; from wearing underwear when I ride a bike – “I made that mistake and it really was not comfortable” – to buying washcloth cream to stop any rubbing, nuggets, which are a different nature for cyclists, are homework for the uninitiated.

Only last month did Clegg first get on a tandem bike and whiz around the velodrome on his test day. “When we went up the side, I was by myself,” she admits.

A number of para-cycling friends – including double Paralympic athletics and cycling champion Kadeena Cox – had been trying to lure Clegg into the sport for some time, but she wanted to “close my athletics chapter” before starting a new one.

That closure had been a long way along in her mind. The decision to end his athletic career after the Paralympic Games in Tokyo was originally made in January 2020, shortly after becoming third as the first blind participant in the skating TV show Dancing On Ice.


Add Your Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *