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Three-time Paralympic Games champion Carol Cooke is spending Thursday night in Juntendo University Hospital after crashing heavily in treacherous conditions during the 26 kilometre road race T1-2 on the Fuji Speedway circuit.

It was appalling weather for Friday’s racing with reduced visibility due to thick fog and low clouds. Driving rain and wind gusts also added to rider discomfort and made an already challenging course even harder.

The 60-year-old, who has multiple sclerosis, struggles in the heat so was excited to line up in defence of her 2016 crown in cool, wet conditions. But, while she knows how to ride in the wet, she couldn’t control other riders.

“Well at least I got two firsts today,” Cooke said from her hospital bed five hours after the crash. “First ever race crash and the first time I have not finished a race.”

Cooke was treated on site by team doctor Geoff Thompson before being transferred to hospital by ambulance. She sustained a collapsed left lung (pneumothorax) and doctors have inserted a chest drain. Further tests may be required to rule out a rib fracture.

“I feel better than I did an hour ago,” she said. “I’ve lost a lot of skin and I have a few decent bruises but at least nothing seems to be broken.”

“I really want to say thanks to the people of Japan, they have been so welcoming and the staff here at the hospital have been amazing. Thanks to our team staff too, they have also been amazing.”

Cooke’s crash happened 12 minutes into the race. Canadian Marie-Eve Croteau crashed after hitting a slippery manhole cover on the road and lost control, forcing eventual winner, Germany’s Jana Majunke, to veer in front of Cooke who, with nowhere to go, sailed over the handlebars and into the barriers.

“I’m made of concrete,” she said. “I spoke to my sister and she told me it’s alright I still have three years to come back and redeem myself (in Paris).”

Cooke and Croteau were two of several riders who crashed during racing on Friday.

Doctors have not confirmed how long Cooke would need to stay in hospital.

By: Gennie Sheer Paralympics Australia
Posted: 2 September