A man from Bolton who was left partially paralysed after a friend shot him in the head with an air rifle nearly two decades ago has just won his first cycling medal, and is now planning to ride from Land’s End to John O’Groats.
Danny Walmsley, now aged 32, spent weeks in a critical condition in hospital at the age of 14 when a prank by a teenage friend went wrong and he was shot at point-blank range, reports the Bolton News.
The partial paralysis that he suffered in the incident meant that his childhood dreams of playing rugby league professionally failed to come to anything.
Instead, unable to participate in sport and suffering from poor memory as a result of the pellet lodged in his brain, he left school with no qualifications and began working as a labourer.
Danny, who has been encouraged in his rehabilitation by his girlfriend Donna, took up cycling four years ago.
Last weekend, he was part of the Lancashire Road Club squad which carried off the team prize in The Rake Hill Climb at Ramsbottom, on a course that plays host to the National Hill Climb next year.
He finished the 947-yard climb in a time of 3 minutes 16.9 seconds, in between the times posted by his team mates John Bamford and Steve Horrocks.
Danny, who nowadays studies sports science at Leeds University’s Keighley Campus, said: “I have been working hard at cycling, but I never thought we would win something. I am absolutely buzzing.
“Since my accident, I have never felt able to take part in sporting activities, although before it happened I loved sport. It is an amazing feeling, something I did not believe I would ever experience.
“I never recovered completely from what happened, but I have tried to make the best of my life.
"My rehabilitation goes on.”
Danny’s story inevitably evokes thoughts of Greg LeMond, seriously injured in a shooting accident in 1988 who returned to win his second Tour de France title the following year from Laurent Fignon by what remains the closest ever margin of victory in the race, and highlights the role that sport – at whatever level – can play in rehabilitation.
He is now aiming to ride from Land’s End to John O’Groats with the aim of raising funds for the charity, Sands UK which aims to provide support to those, like his girlfriend Donna, who have lost a baby during pregnancy.
Born in Scotland, Simon moved to London aged seven and now lives in the Oxfordshire Cotswolds with his miniature schnauzer, Elodie. He fell in love with cycling one Saturday morning in 1994 while living in Italy when Milan-San Remo went past his front door. A daily cycle commuter in London back before riding to work started to boom, he's been news editor at road.cc since 2009. Handily for work, he speaks French and Italian. He doesn't get to ride his Colnago as often as he'd like, and freely admits he's much more adept at cooking than fettling with bikes.