Alison Patrick is safe in the knowledge that she will hear the roar from the Rio crowd first hand following her impressive gold in the qualification event at the Buffalo City ITU World Para-triathlon event in South Africa. This was the latest medal in an impressive haul in a sport that became her main focus as recently as 2013.
Alison was crowned world champion in Edmonton in her first full year of competing in Para-triathlon. Since then she achieved a podium finish in five major events in 2015, narrowly missing out on a World Championship double in Chicago.
Born blind, with albinism, Alison did recover some element of sight up to the age of seven but she has never had full vision. Her main challenge is around depth perception. Add to this the complication of a condition called nystagmus which is a continuous movement of the eyes and her albinism which makes her sensitive to light, it is astonishing that she represented Scotland in the able-bodied World Mountain Trophy in 2006.
Alison’s strength and talent is obvious for all to see. The sportscotland institute of sport, in partnership with Triathlon Scotland, has supported Alison and her guide since she turned her attention to Para-triathlon following an injury-enforced retirement from the 800m and 1500m.
From one full-time job to another
Alison, now living and training in Loughborough, was previously based in Dunfermline where she worked as a women’s health physiotherapist at Kirkcaldy hospital.
A major focus of the support from sportscotland came from a member of the Performance Lifestyle team, Julie Paulding. The transition from full-time employment (juggling work, training and recovery) to eventually becoming a full-time funded athlete took some adjustment.
Julie used her profiling expertise to assess Alison and introduced an action plan that would help her realise her ambition of converting that World Championship gold into Paralympic gold. Her glowing testament to Alison's personal qualities is telling. “Alison is the embodiment of quiet determination and level-headedness, if a bit reticent in telling people of her achievements."
During her time living and training in Dunfermline, Alison would make regular trips to Stirling, usually a full day on a Wednesday, to meet up and train with Hazel Smith, one of her guides, and to catch up with the other support staff at the institute of sport.
Both Alison and Hazel worked with Ryan King in the physical preparation team to optimise their performance across the three disciplines. They would also meet up with physio, Oliver Davies, to get support for the niggling injuries picked up during training. This continued until recently when Alison relocated to Loughborough to become part of the centralised athlete programme.
As one of GB’s Para-triathletes Alison now works predominantly with the team there but maintains her links with sportscotland and Triathlon Scotland. Julie helped with the transition to Loughborough from Dunfermline and has remained a constant support resource to Alison.
Hazel, one of her guides, remains in Edinburgh and trains with the sportscotland team at St Leonards. She will find out if she is to guide Alison or one of the other members of the team on their Paralympic quest once they settle in camp in Rio.
Alison has certainly amassed an impressive array of medals so far in a fairly short space of time through commitment and hard work. Perhaps Rio 2016 will be the place where she realises her ambition of winning Paralympic gold.
Read how you can get involved in Para-triathlon with this guide from British Triathlon.