Nel sets career best on track
London - Jaco Nel produced a personal best time in the men’s cycling individual C1-2-3 time trial event at the London Paralympic Games on Thursday.
As with the Olympics, track cycling at the Velodrome is one of the most popular and well-supported events and the 6 000 capacity crowd cheered every remarkable feat achieved by the cyclists on the opening day of competition.
Riding in the C2 category, Nel set a temporary Paralympic record in the 1km sprint, clocking one minute, 18.488 seconds (1:18.488), but his record was short-lived as Tobias Graf of Germany, who rode immediately after him, set a new C2 world record of 1:15.858.
Nel, who joined in the encouragement and hand-clapping which propelled Graf to his world record, said he was thrilled to have achieved his best time, even though he had been hoping for a 1:16 performance.
“I’ve been practicing my starts a lot, so it paid off as I went out quite fast,” the South African said after finishing 11th overall in the event which featured three different classifications (C1, C2 and C3).
“The last 500m is the hardest part for me because to stay on the bike, keep my balance and stay inside the track is the most difficult thing in the world.
“I can’t control my body after the first 500m - it just goes all over the place.”
Nel suffered a permanent brain stem injury after he was involved in a fight seven years ago and only began training and racing competitively after the incident.
The 250m track, laid with siberian pine and built especially for London 2012, was designed in such a way that the track geometry, temperature and environmental conditions would induce record-breaking speeds.
“The Velodrome track is ultra-fast,” Nel said.
“I’ve been training in Majorca where the conditions were much hotter and I thought that track was faster, but my times are better here.”
The 35-year-old will be back at the Velodrome on Friday, in the individual C2 pursuit qualifying event, where two opposing riders start on either side of the track.
The winner is the rider who either catches the other, or records the fastest time over the full distance of four kilometres.
Nel will also compete in the road time trial at Britain’s Formula One and MotoGP racing track next week.
“I’m looking forward to racing at Brands Hatch but I would much rather be riding a motorbike.
“Still, as that won’t be happening, I’ll give it my best shot.”