03 Dec, 2015

My Olympic silver medallist friend

Photograph via ELB Engineering

I met someone quite remarkable a few weeks back.

I met the man who won a silver medal for breaststroke at the 2000 Sydney Olympic Games. And although Terence Parkin probably rates that medal has his highest achievement in the sporting arena, his gold medal tally of 29 won during various Deaflympics is considerably more than that won by swimming legend Michael Phelps (18) during his Olympic career.

I also found out that he is one of Princess Charlene of Monaco’s (herself a former South African Olympic swimmer) sporting ambassadors, sharing this honour with the likes of tennis number one Novak Djokovic and former Formula One world champion Jenson Button.

But what has the career of an international swimming sensation got to do with cycling?

It seems plenty.

Terence took part in the ELB Extreme Road Challenge, a 500 kilometre-long cyclist vs runner event which saw us cyclists take on a bunch of people who don’t have bicycles in a race to see who can get from Villiers to Pietermaritzburg first.

In fact, I was most privileged to count Terence as one of my team mates for the event. And that means we were roommates, we shared countless journeys in the back of our team Quantum minibus and had many great discussions about swimming, cycling and the life of deaf people.

And his participation is no coincidence as he is not only the sports coach for St Vincent School for the Deaf, but his wife Ingrid is the principal of this amazing institution which was the beneficiary of the ELB Extreme Road Challenge.

The photograph on this page was taken with Ingrid, Terence and I at the final awards dinner of the ELB Challenge, which took place at the Golden Horse Casino Complex in Pietermaritzburg on 17 October which I also regard as a huge honour.

Feel free to read my impressions on this amazing event in our lead article starting on page five. Although I rate it as one of the hardest physical challenges I’ve ever done, I didn’t hesitate to answer positively when asked whether I’d be taking part in the 2016 ELB Extreme Road Challenge.

We also catch up to two of the 50 Shades of … Mud riders, Marie-Anne Meijers and Jean Reynolds, who took part in a ride through the Namaqualand and we ride the October edition of the Jozi Freedom Ride.

Brothers Bryan and Richard Clarke sent us their story of how they conquered more than 800 kilometres in the European mountains on their bicycles for what is called the Triple Crown. This is an amazing ride that includes three very difficult cyclosportifs (or cycling events for amateur and retired professional cyclists) back-to-back.

We also meet 69-year-old Henk Duys who has ridden all 29 Tsogo Sun Amashova Durban Classics, since the event began in 1986.

And, in case we forget, Terence has also picked up a few medals for cycling too, notably gold for road cycling and silver for mountain biking at the 2006 World Deaf Cycling Championships. So he certainly wasn’t a “fish out of water” on a bicycle (if he’ll pardon the expression).

Whatever you do during this December, enjoy yourself and don’t forget to ride a few good rides during the month if you can, you’ll be thankful for the time in the saddle once the big events start again in 2016.

Privileged to pedal!

Raymond Travers

Raymond Travers

Modern Cyclist Editor |