Postponed Tokyo 2020 Paralympics may also be on the cards

East London para-cycling duo earn SA call-up

Guide Andrew Liddle, in front, and para-cyclist Tim Stones have been chosen to represent SA in Europe.
GREAT HONOUR: Guide Andrew Liddle, in front, and para-cyclist Tim Stones have been chosen to represent SA in Europe.

East London para-cyclist Tim Stones and his guide Andrew Liddle have been selected to represent SA in the upcoming international UCI Para-Cycling events in Belgium and Portugal.

Stones, who is a senior sub editor at Daily Dispatch, is deaf and partially sighted.

He lost most of his hearing through oxygen deprivation at birth and over the years his vision has deteriorated.

In 2019 he found out that his sight had worsened but in a twist of fate this allowed him to be eligible to compete in para-sport, and more particularly in para-cycling's B3 (partially sighted) category.

Stones has represented Great Britain in athletics at the Deaf Olympics and holds Protea colours for Deaf Rugby as team manager.

“To represent one's country as a sportsman is the ultimate privilege and honour,” said Stones.

“I am utterly thrilled to be afforded this opportunity but am also well aware that there is still much work to be done ahead of the international season. We are representing our country, and we understand the responsibility we carry with that privilege.”

Like many athletes, Stones and Liddle were affected by the halting of sports caused by the Covid-19 pandemic.

Before the lockdown the duo won gold at the SA Para-Cycling championships, winning in two events, the 15km time trial and a 74km road race. But their momentum and preparation for the year was disrupted by the lockdown.

“The hard lockdown, when no training was permitted, hit us hard. As a para-cyclist riding a tandem, I rely on training with Andrew, my guide and friend.

“The hard lockdown meant we could not see each other, let alone train together. We lost a lot of ground. The cancellation of races, and the postponement of the national champs, also affected our preparation. In addition we received no funding.”

Liddle says their focus is on the national championships in Swellendam in mid-March, after which preparation will shift to the international tournaments.

“The immediate goal is to get our training to where it needs to be. Then we will look at defending our gold medals at the South African Championships. We will be going to Belgium with Team SA, so we have to organise for the trip and do our research, looking at who will be there. It's not easy, para-cycling.”

The postponed Tokyo 2020 Paralympics are set to begin in August and Stones is on Sascoc's shortlist to make the trip.   

“The Paralympics is truly something special, and rare. To even be on the list of those being considered for selection feels extraordinary,” said the 41-year-old. 

“The Paralympics is huge, and to represent SA on that stage would feel beyond words. I am almost 42, and won't have another chance. That goal drives Andrew and me every day as we train and prepare.”


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