Age no barrier for Bate in bid for elusive rainbow jersey
If starting young and retiring early is the theoretical normal path of an athlete, then Stephen Bate clearly didn’t get the memo.
But when you’re a double Paralympic champion, multiple World Cup medallist and international star – all within a few years of taking up the sport- Bate doesn’t come close to cutting the tag of a normal athlete.
The New Zealand-born Scottish Paralympic cyclist has already crossed the age 40 mark even before taking to the start line this week, keen to prove age is just a number in South Africa for the UCI Para-Cycling Road World Championships.
It’s a venue in Pietermaritzburg where Bate can already boast plenty of success, taking World Cup time trial gold two years ago – barely two years since being British Cycling’s Paralympic Development Programme.
But since that crowning moment, life has taken a whole new direction for he and pilot Adam Duggleby.
The pair walked away with three medals in their luggage from the Rio 2016 Paralympic Games, including two golds in the individual pursuit B and road time trial B disciplines to propel themselves even further onto the world stage.
That understandably prompted a period of rest, but with a chance for more history to be made, motivation is not something that Bate is finding a struggle.
“I guess I missed the memo of being an athlete as a youngster,” Stephen Bate
“I’ve just turned 40 so it’s about playing smart, looking after myself and making sure I am physically capable of performing at this level.
“Mentally I know I’m more than capable, but physically it takes more out of you the older you get, but I’ve got a great support team looking after me.
“After Rio, you never really know what’s going to happen. You’re so focused on one event that means so much that you don’t really think too much about the future.
“This World Championships was always on the cards, Adam and I have never had a podium, we’ve never got the Rainbow jersey so before either of us call it a day this is one we really want to get.”
When it comes to finding those defying age to step on podiums, Bate doesn’t need to look too much further than Richard Whitehead.
The T42 runner joined Bate in reaching the top step of the Rio 2016 podium, still going strong on his way to World Para-Athletics Championships glory at the tender age of 41.
But when you come off the back of an unforgettable Paralympic outing, it can be easy to think about hanging up the saddle once and for all.
That’s something Bate has had to contemplate over the past 12 months but, with time off at the end of 2016 to recuperate, the feeling now is to look forward as opposed to back.
“There is a sense of pride in being able to compete, I’m really proud every time I pull on the national jersey and get a chance to represent my country.
“It’s been an interesting year since Rio, Adam and I haven’t ridden together that much on the tandem, we’ve gone our different ways and focused on the bits we’ve needed to look at individually, so it will be interesting to see how we go.
“But I was ready to come back, we had agreed that the road Worlds would be a target for us and we’re looking forward to getting out there.
“It was definitely the right time for me to come back at the start of the year.”