Gerald Simonds is delighted to be assisting Paralympic gold medallist Karen Darke as she prepares for Tokyo 2020 and her latest Quest79 challenges.
A climbing accident when she was 21 left Karen paralysed from the chest down but she has refused to let that stop her living life to the full. Karen is part of the British para-cycling team and followed up her silver medal success at London 2012 with gold medal glory in the hand-cycling time trial in Rio and is now in training for the 2020 Games in Tokyo. In addition to her hectic training and competition schedule, Karen has also set herself a target of completing nine endurance cycling events in seven continents before the 2020 Games as part of her Quest79 campaign.
Throughout her para-cycling career, one problem Karen has found challenging is the issue of pressure sores. Many para-cyclists know only too well, the human body is put through an awful lot of stress during training and competing, and the lack of sensation which accompanies paralysis can make pressure sores for someone in Karen’s situation very dangerous.
“I have intermittently had issues with pressure sores when training and taking part in events. Then I was introduced to a member of the German team at a competition, who was using a seating system which comprised of Stimulite sheets. On my return to the UK, I spoke to Wheelchair Services who supplied me with one for my standard wheelchair. However, I knew this could also be the answer to my ongoing pressure sore issues when cycling”.
Karen got in touch with the team at Gerald Simonds, as they are the sole UK distributor for the range of Stimulite pressure management solutions, to ask if there was any way of using Stimulite on her recumbent bike seat and so began a relationship that has gone from strength to strength. “Initially, Karen sent us a template of her recumbent bike seat so that we could ask Supracor to create the seat shape using Stimulite sheets. Following Karen’s feedback to ensure the size, style and shape were perfect we had four custom seats produced in various levels of thickness and density to ensure Karen had suitable seats for training, racing and her Quest79 challenges”, commented Emily Tomson, Marketing Manager, Gerald Simonds.
“The seats are just brilliant, and there is nothing else like them in terms of comfort and protection. I am now in training for Tokyo 2020 where I hope to successfully defend my Paralympic title and my new seating systems are undoubtably helping” continued Karen.
Since winning Gold in Rio, the number 79 has also played a significant part of Karen’s life and was the meaning behind Karen’s other passion in addition to chasing Paralympic glory. When Karen won Gold in 2016, it was her 79th medal for her country and 79 is also the atomic number of gold, and so Karen’s Quest79 dream was born.
Karen’s first ride consisted of cycling along the Carretera Austral, a 1240km ride through the Patagonian wilderness in Chile which Karen undertook with three friends. This was followed by a 3000km hand-cycle trek from Canada to Mexico after which Karen completed a 2500km ride along the Murray river in Australia. While in Australia, Karen also found time to compete in the Commonwealth Games! Other Quest79 challenges between now and Tokyo 2020 will see Karen travel 1500km along the River Ganges, 1250km along the Atlantic Coastal Trail from the UK to Spain, 1250km across Africa and a journey of unknown distance through the ice of Antarctica.
“I know some people think I must be mad undertaking my Quest79 challenges while also training for Tokyo 2020 and competing in various other competitions, but I believe in challenging myself and living life to the full. None of this would have been possible without the support of the team at Gerald Simonds and the amazing Stimulite seating as I have travelled across some incredibly rough terrain in my Quest79 challenges and can train with the peace of mind the seating gives me. I am in no doubt that no other seating system would have protected me as well” concluded Karen.
“It really is an honour to support Karen in her remarkable journey. To work with a Paralympic gold medallist is an honour in itself but when you hear about Karen’s adventures one cannot help but be inspired. On behalf of everyone at Gerald Simonds I would like to wish Karen the very best of luck in her forthcoming Quest79 challenges and her ultimate goals of retaining Paralympic gold in Tokyo” continued Emily.
If you would like more information on Karen’s Quest79 challenges, or to contact her to find out how you could create your own challenge, visit www.karendarke.com
Established in 1983, Gerald Simonds is one of the UK’s leading suppliers of high-quality lightweight manual, powered and standing wheelchairs, powerdrives, seating and pressure care products.