By Bejay Browne
THE first paracycling training camp in Cyprus took place this week at Aphrodite Hills Resort in Paphos.
Headed up by para athlete Christos Loizou, 44, the weeklong camp was organised by the Cyprus Cycling Federation, in cooperation with the Swiss Cycling Federation.
Eight athletes took part, five from Switzerland and three from Cyprus and were trained in handbikes and paracycling.
“The aim is to enable the Swiss Cycling Federation to experience Cyprus as a destination for this sport and also to motivate disabled people on the island,” said Loizou.
Loizou is a below the knee amputee after being born with a problem in his right leg. After undergoing various operations in the US he decided to pursue athletics when he was 18. He has completed in para world championships across the world, first choosing shotput and discus as his chosen disciplines.
For the last six years he has also been involved with ‘Ifestos’ sports club in Limassol and is part of their wheelchair basketball team. The club also promotes paracycling.
“We are currently trying to include even more sports,” he said.
Loizou believes it is important for everyone to keep active and fit but that it is vital for those with disabilities. He said it is all too easy to stay at home which can have a hugely detrimental effect on people’s psychological wellbeing.
Loizou said that the two other Cypriots who participated in the training camp were inspired by the visit of international athlete, Nati Gruberg, last summer for a series of events, held in cooperation with the Embassy of Israel and the Organisation of Paraplegic Cyprus (Opak) and the Cyprus Cycling Federation.
Now ranked Israel’s No. 1 handcyclist, double amputee Gruberg often gives inspirational lectures to students, and volunteers with disabled children.
Loizou said that these events were hugely successful and also helped to motivate the Cyprus Cyling Federation to build a Cyprus team and request expert advice of how to do so.
“I want to encourage more people to sports and help to give them a target and a purpose. Many people don’t even know that paracycling exists and it’s important to highlight this to people on the island,” he said.
For more information: www.cypruscycling.org or 2244 9870