South East Wales

Paralympian Simon Richardson vows to return to cycling

A gold winning Paralympic cyclist seriously injured in a road crash says he is grateful to be alive - and has vowed to get back on his bike.

Simon Richardson, 44, from Porthcawl, was speaking for the first time since the crash near Bridgend in August which left him fighting for his life.

He told BBC Wales he cannot remember the incident and was "terrified" when he woke up in hospital.

He faces up to three years recovery and will miss the London 2012 games.

Mr Richardson became a Paralympic competitor after suffering leg and back injuries in a previous road accident involving his bicycle and a car in 2001.

'Quite terrifying'

He will use a body brace at home after suffering fractures to the spine, a broken pelvis, and broken breast bone.

The Paralympian was honoured with the MBE after winning two golds and one silver medal at Beijing in 2008.

He was cycling along the A48 at Crack Hill House, Bridgend, on 17 August when he was in collision with a van.

Speaking to BBC Wales, he said he never normally took that route but did so "for a change" after a friend texted him to say they couldn't make it to a planned training session.

"I remember waking up and not knowing where I was or what day of the week it was," he said.

"I didn't recognise anyone - it was quite terrifying.

"I didn't know anything about the accident - I just knew I was in bed and couldn't get up.

"I had needles and drains and everything everywhere but I didn't know why - I came round once and ripped all the needles out of my arm and tried to get off the bed."

Mr Richardson said it was pleasing but strange to hear about the media coverage and public goodwill which built up while he was unconscious.

"When I came back from Beijing I never really had so much support," he said.

Image caption Simon Richardson won two gold medals and a silver at Beijing in 2008

"So to have a big accident and the support to have gone worldwide, it's just really difficult to get your head around at times."

The Paralympian has been told he faces a two year recovery period, possibly three if he has to return to the University Hospital of Wales, Cardiff, for a spine operation.

He said he accepted he had no hope of competing in the 2012 Paralympics in London, but intended to return to cycling "fitter than ever".

"I think the first few miles are going to be awkward. I've only ever been up the road where I had the accident in 2001 once and I'll probably never go up that hill again.

"I've got it into my head that it's just an accident, and can't be helped."

South Wales Police say a 59-year-old man from the Cowbridge area is on police bail until 13 October in connection with the collision which injured Mr Richardson.

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