Meet some of the 2016 Paralympic Cycling women – Part 6, H1-3 handcyclists

screen-shot-2016-09-12-at-21-21-37Because the Rio 2016 Paralympic Road Cycling isn’t being televised, I’ve been writing about some of the women who’ll be contesting the races, because they are such fantastic athletes with great stories, with some real jaw-dropping achievements.  You can read about the H4 and H5 handcyclists here, and the final installment is all about the H1-3 riders.  I can absolutely guarantee you won’t be disappointed by these women!

I described handcycling a little bit in that other piece, and as a reminder, in Rio there are two combined-category Handcycling ITTs on Wednesday 14th September – H4-5 and H1-3, with 1 gold in each, while the road races are H1-4 and H5 on 15th – and the startlists and livetimings should be available via the racing schedule.

As always, I haven’t managed to get to all of the riders, so if I’ve missed any facts, or your favourites, please let me know in the comments, or on twitter, and I’ll edit the information in.  And after the riders, I’ll tell you a little bit more about the courses.

So who’s competing in the H1, H2 and H3 categories?

Justine Asher, H2, South Africa

She’s only on her fourth year handcycling, and has won two World Championships golds.  Finding funding is very difficult for her, as there isn’t much funding for cycling, let alone paracycling, in  South Africa, but she’s hoping to inspire other disabled South Africans to get involved in sports, and raise awareness – in in turn, funding!

She’s had an interesting life – a former fashion model, who sued a biotech company for fraudulent stem cell treatment, and seems to have won.  She says her husband and children’s support is what enables her to race – and you can find out more in this Video profile, and another one here, including her talking about becoming World Champion – follow her on twitter

You can also watch her swim with sharks…


Alicia Dana, H3, USA

She had first ridden a handbike as a teenager, rode across the USA in the 1990s to raise funds for disability-related causes, and raced for the USA in 2001 and 2002. But in 2003 she had a daughter and so stopped racing until 2012, when she decided to give it another go in her 40s, especially happy that the technology had developed since her first career.  She came back in 2011, and was 5th in the ITT in London 2012, and has been learning and improving ever since, winning silver in the 2015 World Championships ITT.

Listen to her talk on Vermont Public Radio, including talking about how she became disabled, and she talks about her handbike as well (there are some quotes in the article too).  Another article here – and to give an idea of how much the handcycles cost, she set up a crowdfunder to raise $8,000 to replace hers after it was stolen, back in 2011.


Karen Darke, H3, Great Britain

Darke is this incredible adventurer, and when she became paralysed from the chest down in a rock climbing accident, being in a wheelchair didn’t stop her – she continues to climb, handbike, ski and canoe around the world, visit the most incredible landscapes, including jungles, Greenland, stunning mountains…  and on top of that, she’s competing in World-level sport.

That trailer was for a film she ran a kickstarter to make, and I really love her film projects.  When she found out that the Rio 2016 Handcycling wouldn’t be shown live, she started crowdfunding to get film-makers to Rio, to film it and the riders, which is such a good initiative.

And that segues nicely into her sporting achievements!  In London 2012, she won silver in the H1-2 ITT, and in the Road Race, she crossed the line holding hands with fellow Brit Rachel Morris, hoping they’d be able to share the bronze medal, but it wasn’t to be, and Morris was given bronze and Darke 4th.  She was hit by a car in 2013, so missed a season, but she’s back and going for that gold, with help from Formula 1 engineers who helped her make her handbike even more aerodynamic.

She’s already written two books about her life, If You Fall, and Boundless, about adapting to her disability, and on top of all this, she has a PhD in geology!  Follow her on twitter, because I can’t imagine for a moment that she’s going to stop here!


Jady Martins Malavazzi, H3, Brazil

Only 20 years old, getting to race her first Paralympics on home soil must feel incredible!  Follow her on facebook


Francesca Porcellato, H3, Italy

It’s the 10th Paralympic Games for the incredible Italian legend, La Rossa Volante.  As you can guess, she’s another of the multi-sport athletes, competing in Para-cross country skiing and Para-athletics wheelchair racing, winning three golds and 8 other medals over  Summer and 3 Winter Paralympics. Those golds were in the skiing 1km sprint in Vancouver 2010 and the Para-Athletics 100m and 4x100m Relay in her first Games, Seoul 1988.  Watch her racing:

She discovered hand-cycling when she was training for the 2014 Sochi Winter Games, and fell in love with it, switching over from Athletics, because she says she is always looking for new challenges – and straightaway won 2 World Championships golds in the 2015 H3 ITT and Road Race.  You can find out more about her in the biography on her website – if the Paralympics aren’t enough, her achievements include racing 98 wheelchair marathons, winning 74 Gold in New York, Seoul, Paris, Rome, London (which she won for 4 consecutive years) and in 2015, Boston.  Another rider to follow on twitter, to see what on earth she’ll do next!


Ciara Staunton, H2, Ireland

She started playing wheelchair rugby, “murderball”, and you can read a bit about her experiences in that on the, and she tried other para-sports, including athletics and swimming, before getting her handbike in January 2015, and competing in her first race in the February – she says she was “scared stiff”!  She says in that interview that she knows that it will be very hard to medal, with the combined categories, because winning an H2 Wold Cup silver medal is very different to going up against the H4s.  She’s still developing and learning, and hopefully we’ll see a lot more of her.


About the Rio Handcycling

The Handcycling women will be racing 1okm Time Trials on Wednesday 14th September on the P1A course, and 15k road races on the P2 course.


Hopefully there will be livetiming for each race via the Schedule here.

If you want to find out about other women competing in the road races…

I’ve written a guide on to how to follow the racing, and you can follow the Paralmypian Cyclists on twitter with this list – and you can catch up with all the Rio Track Cycling action in my collection of videos and media.

I’m funded to do my women’s cycling work by my wonderful Patreon supporters – thank you so much!


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