Crawley-born Irish para-cyclist Katie-George Dunlevy is ‘over the moon’ after she collected an impressive gold and silver at the UCI Paracycling World Road Championships in Emmen in the Netherlands, last week.
The gold-medal winning Paralympian and her pilot Eve McCrystal retained their gold World Championship medal in the Time Trial, winning with a a time of 41:02.51, nearly a full minute clear of second-place finishers New Zealand.
The pair also took home silver in the Road Race, finishing in a time of 02:07:39, but were just milliseconds from securing gold after they were pipped to the line by New Zealand pairing Emma Foy and Hannah Van Kampen.
Describing her impressive haul, Dunlevy said: “I’m absolutely over the moon. It’s been a big target for the year, and it’s hard to win the title, but to retain it is even harder. We have such an incredible coach who got us in the right shape just before it and all we had to do really was go and do the best on the day. We're absolutely thrilled."
Dunlevy, who was a member of the GB adaptive rowing squad before taking up cycling in 2011, has lived with degenerative eye condition retinitis pigmentosa for over half her life but she hasn’t allowed it to dampen her competitive spirit.
Speaking on her road race silver medal, she said: “I wouldn’t be the competitor I am if I wasn’t disappointed not to win, especially as it was so close, but of course I am really happy with the silver. I believe things happen for a reason and winning silver shows everyone how highly competitive it is, especially coming up to Tokyo.
"Over the next 12 months to Tokyo, it’s going to step up and everyone’s trying to beat us on the road so we have to try and stay up there. We are still looking for ways to improve between now and then and that’s what we will do, but, to win that silver, we’re really happy."
Dunlevy and McCrystal have been a pairing since 2014 and Dunlevy recognises the importance of having a good bond with her pilot. She said: "It's so crucial to have someone that you can work well together. We both want it as much as each other and we both work incredibly hard. We have to put the time in training together and make sure we’re ready to give everything we have on the day.
"So, yes, that relationship is really important. We’ve been together so long now that we know each other really well on and off the bike and off the bike so it’s just working on even the bits that are good to try and make them better."
Next year is an important one for the duo as they aim to retain their Women's road time trial B title, which they picked up four years ago in Rio, in the Tokyo Paralympic Games.
She said: “We have other competitions as well during the year but Tokyo, of course, is the aim for everyone. It’s going to go so quickly between now and then but it’s just a matter of putting our heads down and carrying on working hard.
"We want to retain our title from Rio and we also want to win the road race as we believe we can. We want to medal in the track pursuit as well so we’re aiming high and we’ll do everything we can to give us the best chance of winning those medals."
Diagnosed with her eye condition at 11-years-old, Dunlevy explained how it affects her daily life. She said: "It has been quite stable but has slowly deteriorated. I’ve got no peripheral vision and the light perceptions in my eyes are dying, so the amount of light affects what sight in my eye that I do have.
"I’m very independent but there will be times that I would struggle to get around, and my mobility would be affected in that way but I don’t let it stop me and it’s just something that I adapt to and have to deal with."
Dunlevy also revealed how she settled on cycling, having been involved in a number of sports, including athletics and swimming, from a young age. She said: "I’d been rowing for a long time and I was emotionally and mentally coming to the end of rowing at that stage. I had an opportunity to try out cycling for Ireland, something I hadn’t done, and not at high level.
"I didn’t even realise tandem racing was an elite sport or that there were world championships and Paralympic events so I kind of just gave it a go and I'm so glad I did. I am thankful to Cycling Ireland for giving me that opportunity and I haven’t looked back or regretted it one bit. I wouldn’t choose it any other way."
Despite being born in Crawley, Dunlevy represents Ireland at international level due to family connections on her father's side. She said: "I see myself as Irish, most of my family are Irish. Of course I’m proud to be English and born in England, but I’m very proud to be Irish, I’ve got a lot of Irish blood in me."
Dunlevy's focus is now on her upcoming event at the UCI Para-cycling Track World Championships in Milton, Canada, in January next year.