After a training crash which left him paralysed, motocross racer Simon Lawson admits he struggled with a “void” that needed to be filled.
The Cumbrian found a fresh outlet for his competitive nature in endurance wheelchair racing, and was delighted to be selected by Team GB for this year’s Rio Paralympics.
“It feel like it’s definitely been my best year to date,” he told me. “I’ve set new personal best times, plus being selected to represent our country in the Paralympics was a massive highlight.”
“Wheelchair racing was the sport I chose to fill that void in my life, and so far things are going great”
Lawson, 34, finished 14th in the men’s marathon in the T53 class (for athletes with full use of their arms but limited trunk and lower body movement) in Brazil.
He followed that up with races in Berlin, Chicago, Scotland and New York – in the famous Big Apple marathon, he crossed the line in sixth place.
“New York came at the end of a very busy six-week period, and I think it has got to be one of my best results of the year.
“I didn’t win and it wasn’t my fastest time, but I exceeded my expectations in that race and I managed to get my best position against the best athletes in the world.”
“Berlin was also a good race, finishing sixth again but only six seconds behind the winner and Rio Paralympics gold medalist Marcel Hug. So I think I proved to myself and the other athletes what I was capable of.”
Lawson competed at national level in motocross before an accident in 2001 left him paralysed from the chest down.
“It’s never easy leaving anything you love doing. I obviously had no choice but to quit motocross because of my injury, but it still was hard to let that go,” he admits.
“Wheelchair racing was the sport I chose to fill that void in my life, and so far things are going great.”
His job at Jack Horseman Motorcycles in Carlisle keeps up his connection with two-wheeled machines, but it’s his three-wheeled racing chair that has taken him to the highest level of disability sport.
After that impressive 14th place finish in Rio, Lawson was excited to take part in the Olympic and Paralympic celebration in Manchester.
But he was even more thrilled when he discovered that the people of his hometown Mayport had organised a street parade to mark his return from Brazil.
“That truly was amazing, I was blown away by the parade! They closed off the main street and let the local schools have the morning off to come and cheer for me. What a reception.
“It was even more special than the Team GB parade in Manchester because this was local and personal and just for me.
“I couldn’t believe how many people turned out and supported me. It will be a moment I will remember for the rest of my life.”
Of course, taking part in the Team GB event was, Lawson stresses, another very special day.
“It was such an honour to be part of it. Parading through the streets of Manchester with thousands of people cheering and waving GB flags.
“I aim to be at the Tokyo 2020 Paralympic Games and hopefully this time bring home a medal”
“It gave me a massive sense of pride and also a lot of motivation to continue in my sport and represent my country again.”
Now that the racing season is over for the wheelchair racer, you would think that he deserves some off time and a break from the sport before the tough training regime starts again next year. Wrong.
Lawson said: “I’ve had a short break from training and racing, but now I’m starting my winter training programme to get ready for 2017. I’m aiming to work on my weaknesses and develop my strengths.”
Despite the progress he has made in 2016, Lawson didn’t do enough to keep his lottery funding for 2017.
He admits it is a blow, and knows that being self-funded next season will be tough. But he sees it as “extra motivation” to prove people wrong and is determined to get good results and use the prize money to help out with his costs.
“I plan to compete in the Abbott World Major marathon series, races in Boston, London, Berlin, Chicago and New York, plus some track races and races in this country between the major events.
“I aim to be at the Tokyo 2020 Paralympic Games and hopefully this time bring home a medal.”
You can follow Simon Lawson on Twitter @_SL74. Image courtesy of timeandstar.co.uk