Lizzi Jordan hails impact of sport as she targets Paralympic glory in Paris

World champion cyclist Lizzi Jordan says sport has been her salvation since waking up blind following suspected food poisoning as she targets Paralympic glory in Paris.

The 26-year-old contracted a rare strain of E. coli bacteria during her student days in 2017.

Suffering multiple organ failure, she was placed in a coma before eventually coming around eight weeks later having lost her eyesight and, temporarily, the ability to walk.

“It was a bit unknown as to whether I would pull through,” Jordan, then aged 19, told the PA news agency ahead of her likely Paralympic debut this summer.

“Basically, I had to start from scratch again. I had to leave university, obviously I couldn’t drive any more, so life as I knew it had ended.

“I did sit around and feel very sorry for myself for a while but then I got this second wind and I thought to myself: I want to achieve something without my eyesight that I could have never done even with my eyesight.

“I turned to sport and it kind of saved me, in a cliched way.”

Remarkably, Jordan ran a half-marathon in March 2019 and, the following month, completed the London Marathon to raise £15,000 for the Royal National Institute of Blind People.

The former Royal Holloway, University of London student, who was previously a keen horse rider, attended a British Cycling talent ID day in September 2020 and has gone from strength to strength.

She teamed up with tandem pilot Danni Khan in November and together the pair clinched a hat-trick of gold medals in March at the Para-cycling Track World Championships in Rio de Janeiro.

Two of the those events – the 1km time trial and the 3km pursuit – feature on the schedule for Paris 2024, which begins on August 28, while the pair also hope to compete in the road time trial and road race.

“I still pinch myself now because it was just in the wildest of my dreams to achieve two world titles in two Paralympic events in a Paralympic year,” said Jordan, who is able to train full-time thanks to National Lottery funding.

“Obviously, everyone wants to win a (Paralympic) gold medal but I’d love for us to be competitive across all four events and I just want to really enjoy the experience.

“It’s been a crazy journey, to say the least. It took me ages to come to terms with my sight loss.

“I was fiercely independent before. It kind of took my pride away to have to ask people for help.”

With pilot Khan in complete control of the tactical and technical aspects of racing, Jordan must place absolute trust in her team-mate.

“I’ve always been quite an adrenaline junkie,” said Jordan. “With my previous horse riding, I used to be flying off left, right and centre.

“On a training ride at home with a local pilot, we did have an unfortunate occurrence with an oncoming car but there are always risks in any sport – that’s what adds to it!”.

Khan, 28, a former solo cyclist, said: “I feel such a great sense of responsibility. It’s all down to my command so having that trust is crucial.

“From the moment I met Lizzi, we’ve just really gelled as a partnership and I’m so excited to keep building on that going forwards for, hopefully, a fantastic summer of cycling.”

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