Rio done… now for Paris

Sleep was at the top of Devon Briggs’ agenda when he arrived home a fortnight ago.

Fresh from his stunning performance at the Para Cycling Track World Championships in Rio de Janeiro, the world champion was physically spent, and nursing a concussion he received when another rider clipped his bike during the last race, causing a crash.   The incident resulted in the offending rider being disqualified and Cambridge-based Briggs taking the bronze.

World champion para cyclist Devon Briggs, home from his Rio de Janeiro triumph with a concussion. Photo: Viv Posselt

“Luckily, it was an elimination race and one organised more for the crowd than for competition,” the 20-year-old said.  “I was under supervision for a few days after it happened… now I’m just feeling very fatigued.  Right now I’m just taking it easy.”

Briggs was one of five Kiwi para cyclists racing at last month’s championships.  As the first track cycling event of the paralympic year, Rio was key for those seeking to secure a place in the Paris 2024 Paralympic Games in August/September.  With Briggs in Brazil were fellow Kiwis Nicole Murray, Nick Blincoe, Anna Taylor and Ben Westenberg – between them they brought home a record 11 medals.

Fortuitously, the crash came after Briggs had already claimed the double whammy of a gold medal and a new world record.  He claimed a world title, then added two bronze and a silver to his competition tally before setting an astounding two world records on day four, smashing the five-year record in his C3 Kilo qualifier, then beating his own world record in the final later the same day.

Cambridge-based champion Devon Briggs doing a victory lap after his victory in Rio de Janeiro. Photo: Miriam Jeske CBC

It still has him fizzing; he knew he was close before getting to Rio.   “I just touched it about a month before… I knew if I pushed myself I could potentially get it.  From the start of the year I’ve wanted to claim that rainbow jersey going into Paris.”

Briggs’ spectacular success as a C3 class para cyclist started in 2014 when he first ventured into the velodrome in Cambridge aged 10.  He was born with severe club feet and has endured multiple surgeries – cycling was a sport he could safely enjoy, and one that gave him a sense of freedom.  His talent and competitive spirit showed early, and experts predicted that if he put in the work, the sky was his only limit.

“I have a real passion for it.  It’s given me a freedom I wouldn’t have otherwise,” he said.  Briggs missed the Tokyo 2020 Olympics by a hair – he was just 13 days too young to qualify.   Now it’s Paris he has his eye on, something he said has the potential to be the ‘pinnacle of my cycling career’.

When he made it into the official paralympic programme in 2022, he initially found the adjustment tough to start with.

“It took me a while to used to the fact I was now a paid athlete and that I had to ride even when I didn’t feel like it,” he grinned, “but in reality, I’d be doing this even if I was being paid nothing.  My thing is riding to win … I love it.”

Briggs has ridden and won internationally over the past couple of years.  When not riding, he is working his way through a psychology degree.

See: Medals are coming home

See: News in brief

See: Cyclists in Games mode

See: Devon eyes a Parisian prize

Devon Briggs wearing the coveted rainbow jersey after his stunning performance in Brazil. Photo: Miriam Jeske CBC

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