A DETERMINED young Ross-shire paracyclist is battling on with his dream to represent his country at the 2020 Paralympics thanks to donations from supporters and well-wishers including £500 collected at the Strathpuffer endurance cycling event.
Fin Graham’s cycling ambitions appeared to be in doubt last year when he became seriously ill and was diagnosed with the life-threatening condition, lupus.
But the inspirational 18-year-old, of Strathpeffer, confounded everyone to get back into competitive racing and tomorrow he will be among those honoured at the British Cycling Awards dinner in Birmingham.
The event will recognise his success in becoming the British national paracycling champion (road) for his category of disability at championships staged by British Cycling, the sport’s national governing body, in Chester and North Wales in July – shortly before he became ill.
With his sights now set on competing in a series of world cup events this year, he and his family are hoping more people will be inspired to get behind him and help him achieve his potential.
Fin, who lives with his parents Drew and Dee and brother Rory, was born with two club feet and has no calf muscle on his right leg. But he has been determined not to let his disability get in the way of his passion for cycling and having caught the attention of British Cycling coaches, he was beginning to make his mark on the track when he was diagnosed with lupus. The disease causes the body’s immune system to mistakenly attack healthy tissue in many parts of the body.
Such was the severity of his condition, including the impact on his kidneys and lungs, that his family wondered whether he would be able to return to competitive cycling.
But as soon as he was able, he was in the saddle. Although he has to take medication twice daily for the rest of his life and receive intravenous medication every six months, he remains positive.
"Every time he goes back to the renal clinic, his blood results get better and better," said Mrs Graham, a children’s nurse at Raigmore Hospital.
"He is not in complete remission yet but he is heading towards remission. There is always the worry it could flare up again but you try not to think about it."
Last month, he competed in track championships in Manchester and although he did not get a medal, he achieved personal best times in his three races.
"His coaches are delighted and say he is the most motivated and determined athlete they have on the programme," Mrs Graham said.
Fin works part time at the Dingwall branch of Tesco which has been flexible in enabling him to fulfil race and training commitments.
Each week, he travels to Glasgow to train and such is his commitment he sleeps on student friends’ couches for two nights. In addition, all his training camps with British Cycling this year are 550 miles away in South Wales.
Mrs Graham acknowledged that meeting the travel and training costs were an ongoing dilemma.
The family was delighted that the Strathpuffer event had raised about £1000 to be divided between Fin and the charity Lupus UK.
Moray Estates had also agreed to reimburse Fin for up to £2000 for train travel to go to Glasgow and other places for training and racing.
"It was a huge relief to us," Mrs Graham said.
"I think they were aghast that no-one is getting behind Fin to support him and they felt they wanted to do something. It’s so great because this year he has to focus on the world cups and will have fund all travel, accommodation and food when he is out there."
Two events take place in Ostend and Emmen although Mrs Graham is unsure whether the family can afford for him to compete in a third in Nova Scotia.
Another fundraising boost is set to take place on Saturday, March 10 when Alex Macdonald and Band stage a concert at Dingwall Free Church. The Scottish band, whose albums include Into the Light, will perform from 7.30pm.
Entry is by donation which will be divided between Fin and Lupus UK.