Revitalised Greco Set For Brave Games Comeback
The two minor placings Paige Greco secured at the 2023 World Championships might seem meagre compared to her exhilarating gold medal on the opening day of the Tokyo Paralympics.
Yet, those bronze medals at the Championships in Glasgow were indisputable evidence that beneath her unassuming exterior lies a brave and tenacious competitor.
“Early in 2023 we went to the Para-cycling World Cup in Italy,” Greco said. “In the Time Trial, towards the end of the race, I went into a wall.
“I’ve had a lot of successes in my cycling career, but this was mentally and physically a really big barrier to get through. I learnt a lot about myself.”
Greco crashed at 45 kph and sustained severe injuries. Her nose was broken, she was heavily concussed and needed scores of stitches to multiple wounds.
Her coach David Betts recalled the scene when he arrived: “Paige was on a stretcher, she had a neck brace on, there was a lot of blood around. Her front tooth was knocked out and there was a lot of facial trauma. It was all quite confronting.
“Paige was scared and I was just trying to be positive and tell her she was in good hands and we’d get her to the hospital. I couldn’t say ‘You’ll be alright’ because I didn’t really know, to be honest.”
Unsurprisingly, over the coming days and weeks as she recuperated, Greco, 26, considered giving cycling away.
“I was wondering what would happen when I got back on the bike,” she said. “Would I have flashbacks? Am I going to freak out?
“For a while I didn’t know if I wanted to continue cycling. I was thinking about whether I should walk away from the sport and do something else. We didn’t know if Worlds was on the cards. We talked about how my health has to be the most important thing.”
Through intense treatment with mental and physical health professionals and the support of her network, the path cleared for Greco to return.
“She could have said ‘No, it’s too hard, I’m not doing this’,” Betts said of Greco’s decision to compete at the Championships in Glasgow. “But she’s a fighter and she wants to go.”
Now, with her career revitalised, Greco is preparing to defend her Tokyo Games success at the Paris Paralympics.
“That feeling when I crossed the line… I love to win. I love when I race to always strive to get on that podium.
“When I was younger the doctors did say to my parents that I might not be able to run and I’d have trouble doing exercise. I think I’ve always had that drive driving me that [says] ‘Yeah, OK, I do have cerebral palsy, but I’m still going to compete because that’s what I love to do’.
“The Paralympics is the top goal. Just being there in Paris, that’s what really drives me.”