LIKE many athletes who competed as part of a team at London 2012, preparing for the Commonwealth Games in Glasgow next year was never going to be a straightforward proposition for Neil Fachie.
In London his stirring successes in the Paralympics, where he won gold in the men’s one-kilometre time trial and silver in the men’s individual sprint, were achieved in tandem with his experienced sighted pilot Barney Storey.
A type-one diabetic, Storey piloted Dan Gordon at Athens in 2004 and won two golds with Anthony Kappes at Beijing in 2008 on the same day his wife Sarah also won gold in the velodrome. But there’s a problem: Storey is English.
So visually impaired Fachie has had to change partners, switching to Olympic silver medallist Craig MacLean, who combined with Kappes to beat Fachie to gold in the sprint in London. MacLean’s hardly a makeweight. In 2011 he teamed up with Fachie for the Para-Cycling Track World Championships in Italy and they won both the kilo and sprint, setting a new world record in the latter.
“He’s not a bad stand-in, is he?” laughed Fachie. “The switch is purely down to nationality but Craig’s really experienced and we know that we can synchronise, which is key on the tandem where it’s trickier because you’re throwing a lot more weight into the corners. We also get on, which is important.”
Aberdonian Fachie is already keyed up at the prospect of competing in front of friends and family at a home Games. He believes that the atmosphere in the Sir Chris Hoy Velodrome “will be every bit as mad as it was in London, if not more so”. He and MacLean start as favourites, with the English duo of Storey and Kappes their likeliest challengers. Still, Fachie’s bullish enough to openly target a gold and world record double.
Uniquely, Glasgow will see the Paralympic events staged as an integral part of the Games. “It’ll be my first experience of being part of what’s essentially an able-bodied championships,” says Fachie. “It’ll be great to showcase paralympic sport, which has come so far even since I started in 2006. London was a phenomenal step forward and Glasgow will be an opportunity to show that we’re serious sportsmen who deserve to be taken seriously.”