When three-time Paralympian Amanda Reid pedals out on to the track in the velodrome, she is not just racing for herself – the proud Aboriginal woman is representing all her people back in New South Wales.
And wearing an Indigenous design on her speed suit on Friday, the 24-year-old did not disappoint those watching on from afar as she claimed Australia’s seventh gold medal of the Tokyo Games with a world record-breaking time trial ride.
Reid, who has cerebral palsy and an intellectual impairment, went one better than the silver she won in this event at the Rio Games five years ago and immediately afterwards said she hoped her success would inspire other Indigenous Australians with disabilities to follow in her footsteps and participate in sporting activities.
“It means everything to me to be a proud Guring-gai and Wemba-Wemba woman and to represent my people back home, seeing there is only three of us on the team this time [along with Samantha Schmidt and Ruby Storm],” she told Channel Seven after winning the women’s C1-3 500m category at the velodrome in Izu. “So I’m hoping I can encourage more Aboriginal disabled athletes to get into sport.”
Reid’s ascension to the top of the para-cycling world is remarkable, given she represented Australia at the London Games in a different sport – she was a swimming finalist in 2012, placing fifth in the 100m breaststroke.
“I cycled when I was really little,” she said. “I had a little bike and everything modified for me, to help me brake and everything. Then I sort of went into swimming and put that stuff aside.
“In 2015 I found my old cycling jersey. It’s very tiny. I was six or seven when I used it, so it definitely doesn’t fit now. I was like, ‘let’s give this a go, I really enjoyed it when I was little’, and that’s how it started again.
“I’ve still got it. It’s in my room and I might get it framed. It’s something special that reminded me of starting sport.”
Following her return to the saddle, Reid enjoyed immediate success, breaking national records in both the time trial and individual pursuit disciplines.
Her silver medal ride in Rio was followed by a world record time at the 2019 Para-cycling Track World Championships, which marked her out as a contender for gold at the Tokyo Games.
She lived up to expectations in Izu, breaking her own record with a sizzling time of 38.487 seconds – although she was initially unaware of her feat.
“I can’t see the board as I am riding around with these glasses on so I had to stop to be told what my time was and how I went,” she said. “It’s quite interesting when you’re riding around not knowing what time you’ve made.”
Reid’s dedication to the sport and the intensive training put in with her coaches back in Australia in the build-up to Tokyo have paid off handsomely, and she said to be able to bring back the ultimate prize “means everything” to her.
“The last five years have been very up and down so to get the gold is just amazing,” she said. “It feels so great. I was hoping for a world record but I was a bit everywhere on the track, a bit like a zigzag on the track. That’s because of my cerebral palsy, so that can be very interesting when you ride.”
Dutch rider Alyda Norbruis won silver in 39.002, while China’s Qian Wangwei came third with a time of 41.403. Qian also broke the world record for the C1 class.