My ambition was to compete at the Olympic Games. I went to university on a sports scholarship and was a triathlete, aiming for Sydney in 2000. After making the squad, I suffered a spinal injury and was unable to train for six months. My dad was a BA pilot and I had completed a flying scholarship with the RAF at 17, so I followed him and became a pilot too.
BA offered me a job I couldn't turn down, and I set aside my athletic dreams. One path was instant glory and then it would be all over within a couple of years, whereas becoming a pilot would give me a career for life. And I've always loved flying.
After my back recovered, I took up mountain biking. I won the Masters National Championships in 2009 and Series Champion in 2010. I had a bike custom-made for me that folded down to the size of a suitcase. When I flew to destinations that were good for biking, such as Denver, I would train for up to four hours every day when I could.
Things were going well until several months ago when I was knocked off my bike and went headfirst onto a set of concrete steps. I broke my neck, shattered my kneecap and nearly lost two fingers, as well as breaking my back — I was just 2 or 3mm from full paralysis.
It was a life-changing moment. After having a titanium plate inserted into my neck and three months' recuperation, I'm now back in the flying seat and weight training in the gym. I feel very lucky. I will never race like I did before, but am still going to London 2012 as British Cycling have asked me to work at the mountain biking event.
Athletes and pilots share a lot of the same traits: you have to be dedicated and focused. My disciplined sporting background helped me when I was training to become a pilot.
Interview: Ianthe Butt
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