What it meant to be a Paralympian did not really hit cyclist Darren Hicks until he was trying on his Australian uniform.
- Hicks claimed silver in the men’s C2 3,000m individual pursuit
- He was elevated to the gold-medal race following the disqualification of a Belgian opponent
- Hicks’s Paralympic journey has attracted the interest of Hugh Jackman
“Valerie was her name, our seamstress,” Hicks said.
“I just started crying and I think she was taken aback. It just all kind of hit me in the kit and just knowing that it means I’ve made it.”
Hicks, 36, cemented himself as one of the fastest men on two wheels at the Izu Velodrome on Thursday, winning silver in the men’s C2 3,000 metres individual pursuit.
It was a dramatic event, with Hicks elevated to the gold-medal race following the disqualification of Belgian rider Ewoud Vromant.
As it turned out, Hicks was one of the last people to know.
“I actually found out from Carys, my wife,” he said.
“She rang me and I ignored the call first. Then I thought, ‘Hang on, there’s probably a good reason why she’s calling me, she knows I’m pretty busy’.”
Hicks said he was elated to win silver in Tokyo after briefly experiencing the feeling that a bronze was the best result he could achieve.
“It’s a bit surreal, to be honest; that was always the dream to qualify top two,” he said.
“I didn’t quite hit the mark when it came to the time, but somehow it still worked out.”
It has been a long journey to the podium for Hicks, who was a BMX tragic from a young age.
Seven years ago, Hicks was involved in a horrific road accident.
He was driving a truck through the Adelaide Hills when the vehicle’s brakes failed. The truck flipped, smashing into cars waiting at a set of traffic lights.
Two people died in the crash, while Hicks broke his C2 vertebra and had part of his right leg amputated.
He was back on a bike three months later.
Hicks was initially charged over the collision but was finally cleared in 2018 after Jann Spiess, whose husband died in the crash, publicly backed him.
“We came to no other conclusion [at the coronial inquest] that there was something wrong with the truck. He’d done nothing wrong,” Ms Spiess told Paralympics Australia.
“The entire family was on his side. We weren’t holding any animosity towards him.”
Hicks’s Paralympic campaign is far from over as he prepares for his “dream” events, the road race and individual time trial.
“The reason I love it (time trial) is because it’s a race against the clock,” Hicks said.
“It’s a pure test of what a person has in them.
“Whether it’s physical, [or] mental, it’s a combination of both. That’s where I come to the forefront.
Hicks has a whole new contingent of fans ready to cheer him on in the gruelling 25km time trial, including Australian actor Hugh Jackman, who shared Hicks’s story on Instagram.
“The only word is humbling, far out,” Hicks said.
“I’m just a guy that rides a bike. I don’t do it for any kind of praise like what I’m getting at the moment.
“I do it because I love it. I do it because it fulfils me.
Hicks will be back competing in the road events at the Fuji Speedway next week.