23/03/2011 - Para-cyclist Phillipa Gray and her tandem pilot Laura Thompson are right where they want to be with just under 18 months until the London Paralympics.
The Invercargill duo have just returned from Italy where they competed in the paracycling track world championships and produced some good results.
They finished fifth in their preferred event, the kilo time trial, which Thompson said was a satisfactory effort considering they had only been riding in the tandem together for three months.
"We're pretty happy.
"The competition was a lot stronger than we thought it would be.
"We did a 1.12.6, which wasn't a PB (personal best), but it's looking quite promising for the future."
The tandem event involves one able-bodied rider as the pilot and a para athlete in the back of the bike as the stoker.
Thompson and Gray also lined up in the pursuit as they look to build enough UCI points to qualify for the Games and surprised many people with their performance.
They finished seventh overall, but if they had been a second faster, would have progressed through to the medal ride.
Gray, who is originally from Thames, moved down to Invercargill late last year to team with Thompson and work alongside new coach Nick Harris, who mentors New Zealand and Southland track cycling star Eddie Dawkins.
Gray, who was born with Usher syndrome, a condition that affects both her vision and hearing, has only been riding competitively for just over a year after concentrating on rowing for the past eight years.
She has excelled in her short time as a cyclist and broke two New Zealand records with her former team-mate Sonia Waddell last year.
Thompson and Gray illustrated their potential as combination when they shattered the New Zealand record in the tandem kilo time trial in Invercargill last month with a sharp ride of 1.12.417.
Thompson was delighted with their progress, but said they had to keep training hard and try and get their time down even further over the next year.
"We've still got a lot of work to do on our speed. Strength-wise, we're quite good. Pedalling-wise, we need to develop our technique," Thompson said.
The pair will concentrate on their own individual programmes over the next few months before linking later in the year as they begin to prepare for a paracycling Grand Prix event in Wales in October. Thompson planned to jump back on her road bike and build the kilometres ahead of the club nationals in Whanganui in May.
- The Southland Times