Fin Graham is feeling like a kid again as he goes in search of Paralympic gold next summer, writes Sportsbeat's James Reid.
The Kirkaldy cyclist is already a four-time world champion but is unrelenting in his search for ways to help him improve on the two silver medals he won in Tokyo in 2021.
A sparse racing schedule has seen the 23-year-old enter non-disabled races to try and push himself even further, while also ensuring he retains his boyish love of being on two wheels.
“It’s hard because (the non-disabled riders) are all really good,” joked Graham.
“I have ridden a bike from a young age and I have enjoyed racing from a young age, we don’t get that many races and I am wanting to do more.
“Since I can remember I have been doing weekly track and road races, but I want to up the level to national series races against the top guys in the country.
“I know to begin with it is going to be hard, but I know they are not the races I am targeting and I am using them for training. It will be good fun to test myself against the best in the country in the able-bodied side of things.
“All those years ago when I started racing on the mountain bike, I was never competitive, I just did the racing because I enjoyed it and it didn’t matter about the result.
“I am still enjoying what I do in the para races but the result matters whereas going into the able-bodied races, it’s like when I was just starting racing; I am just doing it because I enjoy racing and riding my bike.”
Graham hopes the extra race experience will help him knock seconds of his time as he goes in pursuit of a Paralympic gold medal.
The Scot is now one of the riders to beat in the C1-C3 classification, having earned four world golds in 2022 on both road and track.
It means expectations are now raised since Tokyo, but Graham simply points to his results on the track as evidence of his well-placed confidence.
“Gold is definitely the target for Paris,” he added. “It almost sounds cocky saying that I want to win gold and I have never been like that, I have just enjoyed racing my bike.
“But certainly this past year the form has shown that I am able to compete for gold and I am hoping that come Paris I will be in the position to do it.”
Graham is one of over 1,000 elite athletes on UK Sport’s National Lottery-funded World Class Programme, allowing him to train full time, have access to the world’s best coaches and benefit from pioneering medical support – this is vital for his pathway to the Paris 2024 Games.
With the Paris 2024 Paralympics only one year away, the Games are set to inspire people and communities all across the country. Graham hopes that by sharing his story it will give others motivation to get involved into sport.
Graham doesn’t have to look far for the gold standard with teammates Jaco van Gass and Ben Watson both earning golds in Tokyo.
Graham set a new world record in the men’s individual pursuit in Tokyo, only for compatriot Van Gass to beat it minutes later.
It is the perfect motivator for Graham, who knows training with the very best can only lead to better results.
“Within my category, I have Ben and Jaco, we are the three best riders in the category in the world, so you know in training they are going to be pushing you,” said Graham.
“In Tokyo, Jaco had his gold medals hung up on the wall and I was looking at them thinking that’s cool, I want that.
“It helps you in training to want to beat them, but it’s a healthy relationship. It’s so beneficial having them as teammates because they are the ones to beat.”
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