Name: Brandie O’Connor
Pursuit: My pursuit is Para Cycling as an endurance rider - the stoker (person on the back of a tandem bike). My pilot is fully sighted and fully able bodied who steers the bike and chooses the path the bike runs. We work together to reach our goal.
I am an athlete with a disability. I was born with a rare eye condition called Rod Monochromatism. I have reduce visual acuity to 6/60 (I see at 6 metres what you see at 60 metres), I am colour deficient – only seeing shades of colour and I have severe light sensitivity so in sunlight I wear dark sunglasses. I have never let my vision impairment get in the way of my goals.
As a child I was a competitive horse rider, winning many local competitions. As an adult I worked full time an studied part time for eight years to get my degree and work my way up the corporate ladder. When I moved to Canberra after accepting a graduate role I found competitive sport. 2008 was the first year I competed internationally – at the World Rowing Championships. I had learnt to row in five months. With this new found fitness I went back to cycling, teaming up with my pilot Kerry Knowler (on the right). We are a formidable team and currently the number one female endurance tandem pairing in Australia.
When did you start?
I started training and identified a pilot (front rider of the tandem bike) in 2006 but broke my clavicle and two ribs in a cycling accident in December which did not heal so I had surgery in April 2007. I then took up adaptive rowing in late 2007. In 2008 our adaptive crew just missed out on selection to the Beijing Paralympics and while cross training on the bike that year I met my current pilot. I began competitive Paracycling in 2009.
Career highlight or biggest achievement?
Silver in 2011 at the Oceania Track Championships in New Zealand and 2nd in 2012 in the individual road time trial at the International Paracycling Tour in France.
What is your dream?
To win gold at the 2016 Rio Paralympics for the Women’s 3km Track Pursuit and Individual Road Time Trial.
Who or what have inspired you?
FITAbility got me started with tandem cycling. The head coordinator, Rosemary Robinson first "planted the seed" in 2006 and the rest is history.
Who's your hero?
Any other special talents?
Expert horse rider and I have a Black Belt in Taekwondo
Whatever I feel like at the time.
I don’t have a favourite movie. I do enjoy romantic comedies and trashy action flicks.
The Business of being an Athlete by Kerri Pottharst
Favourite TV Show?
At the moment - Big Bang Theory
How the grant will help you/how will you use the money?
The funding will alleviate my current financial situation. Without funding at this time my ability to repay the debt I will incur for the purchase of a new track tandem will be very limited – it will take some time to repay. The Track Tandem on loan to me was damaged badly in transit in March 2012 on our return from the World Championships. The compensation given to me for its repair covered only partially the cost to have it rebuilt and ready for racing. I paid the remaining amount to have the bike race ready. We have trained and competed on this bike since its rebuild, unfortunately, it is no longer the same bike. As an aluminium frame it had some degree of flex in comparison to the usual steel, carbon and titanium frames. The additional flex in the frame is now impacting on our race times and the strain on the bike has been commented on by others as they see the tail end of the bike dip down around the corners on the track. We are now losing valuable power through the flex in the frame and I have no other option but to buy a new track tandem if we are going to continue to compete on the track. My plan is to purchase a titanium track bike. My coach has identified a builder and we will have the drawings made up locally to reduce the cost and we expect this will not impact on quality. We can transfer the crankset to the new bike which will save us $1,000. We then need to purchase, the forks, seat posts, pilot and stoker bars. I estimate the cost to be $4,000-$4,500 including wheels as these too need replacing.
Last words: Quote or Motto you live by?
The mind is the athlete, the body is simply the means is uses – first with the head then with the heart. And There are 4 “D”s to success, Determination, Desire, Dedication and Discipline.