Gildea gunning for Paralympic chance after Rio heartbreak

Jon Gildea is hoping to strut his stuff at the Tokyo Games this summer © SWpix.com

After recovering from a head injury that disrupted his 2019, Jon Gildea looks to be back to his best heading into a Paralympic year – now it’s just a matter of getting there.

The C5 para-cyclist failed to make the cut for the ten-strong team for the Rio 2016 Paralympic Games but has since gone from strength to strength on the bike, including winning two gold medals in the 2017 Para-Cycling World Championships in Los Angeles.

The 41-year-old will look to claim his crown back later this month as the Championships head to Ontario, where he hopes to put himself in contention for a seat on the plane to Tokyo 2020. 

And the Sale-born athlete believes the setback of missing out on the chance to compete in Brazil has only spurred him on to try even harder.

“I had to have a good look at myself after not getting selected for the Games in Rio because I was convinced I had a better performance in me,” the Paralympic hopeful said. 

“I had a big winter and went to the World Championships to try and deliver that performance that I thought I was capable of and I did.

“This time I’m clearly better than I have ever been, and the hope is to go and deliver that performance that I know I can do.

“So far in the build up to the 2020 World Championships everything seems to be lining up perfectly. I would love to be able to put the world champion’s jersey back on and put myself in the driving seat to go and win a gold medal in Tokyo.”

With the British para-cycling team picking up 21 Paralympic medals last time around, the battle isn’t just with the competitors on the track in Canada at the end of this month, but also with his compatriots, with the race on to seal a place in ParalympicsGB.

After previously competing on both the road and the track, Gildea has decided to ditch the outdoor events in the past year and focus himself on the velodrome, a decision he thinks will hold him in good stead for selection for Japan, but one that doesn’t come without risks.

“The squad is too competitive to not be up there with a World Championship medal, we have 12 or 13 very strong riders and we have about nine places across all categories,” he added.

“I took myself out of the road race and focused on the track because I believe that will be the biggest opportunity for me to win.

“Road racing is a bit of a lottery, you might win, you might not. You’ve got to be strong to win, but it’s not necessarily the strongest rider in the race that wins.

“By spreading myself onto the road as well I would’ve been reducing my chances of winning rather than improving them, but in doing that I’ve put all my eggs in one basket.”

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