Returning home to Strathpeffer gave paracyclist Graham the boost he needed to get through lockdown
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A month or so into Covid-19 lockdown, Fin Graham hit a metaphorical wall. Motivation ebbed and enjoyment dwindled.
It was a wholly understandable response in extraordinary times from a young man with life ambitions torn from his reach.
A creeping sense of aimlessness dulled the 20-year-old’s natural exuberance, and there was only one cure for the torpor – the Strathpeffer-raised paracyclist got back in the saddle and cycled.
Returning to wild and peaceful roads of his childhood provided the spark. Suddenly, Graham was pedalling for the pure joy of it again.
The dream remains a berth at the Tokyo Paralympics, now postponed to August 2021, but the path towards it has come in defiance of serious health challenges. Born with club feet and no calf muscle in his right leg, Graham was diagnosed with the autoimmune disease lupus erythematosus after collapsing on his 18th birthday.
He beat those obstacles to become British champion and claim a glorious time trial gold at the UCI Paracycling World Cup in Canada last year.
Entering 2020, selection for Tokyo seemed tantalisingly close before the pandemic cancelled the UCI Road World Championships in Switzerland, where he hoped to seal selection.
After almost four months away from the British Cycling team base at Manchester’s velodrome, he is back working under coach John Hewitt.
“It is nice being back in Manchester, but being back home was great – I was able to get out for long rides without the pressure of competitions on the horizon and explore the home roads with 100-mile rides,” he said.
“That’s something I could never do while in fully-structured training. It was all about keeping the legs ticking over. I was getting out on the mountain bike as well, just to keep it fun.”
Hitting those lonely Ross-shire roads proved mentally soothing.
“There was one spell in lockdown where I lost my way a little bit,” he said.
“I was struggling for motivation, with no focus. I had a couple of pretty hard weeks, but I came out of it. I just learned to enjoy it again.
“Now I’m back on track. Hopefully, the games will
go ahead next year, but there’s no certainty. I’m not going to build my hopes too high. It is just about being positive.”
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