A Sedgefield cyclist has secured a silver medal in a national
competition less than three years after an accident left him in a coma with
In May 2019, semi-professional road cyclist Ben Hetherington was hit by a car
while competing in a local time trial event and left fighting for his life. Luckily,
first at the scene were two off duty medics, and then the air ambulance
airlifted Ben to James Cook University Hospital where surgeons performed a
life-saving operation to allow bleeding around Ben’s brain. He spent two weeks
in intensive care in an induced coma, followed by a further four weeks in the
high-dependency neurological ward before he was then put onto the main
Once on the main neurological ward, Ben had to regain his speech,
concentration, and memory. As soon as these began to improve, all Ben
wanted to do was ride his bike, even though at the time he could not even
After five months in James Cook, Ben was transferred to the specialist
neurological rehabilitation hospital, Walkergate Park, where through a
combination of physiotherapy, occupational therapy and his own
determination, Ben began walking independently, but he still wanted to ride his
bike. As part of his physio, he progressed from the seated pedals to a
stationary gym bike and by the time he left Walkergate Park he had progressed
to a mountain bike which he rode around a small track.
Ben left hospital at the end of January 2020, eight months after his traumatic
brain injury. His rehabilitation continued at home with the support of his
parents Gary and Amanda, a case manager, occupational therapist,
physiotherapist, psychologist and cycling friends. Ben got stronger and fitter
physically but also needed to work hard on his cognition and memory due to
the brain injury. The first lockdown enabled Ben and his mum to ride local
roads, progressing from a mountain bike to road bike with normal pedals then
eventually to cleats.
Ben's target was always to re-join his team and race, but as he came to terms
with his physical and mental capabilities, he realised that the only way to reach
his dreams was now to go into para races. He was given a C3 classification
and entered individual pursuit event in the National Para Track Championship.
With the hard work behind him and his dogged determination he was now
ready to race and do his best, whatever the outcome would be, and when 5
March came around that was what he did. He finished second in the MC3
category in a time of three minutes and 49 seconds. He was proud and
delighted to accept the silver medal.
Ben comments: “It feels amazing. My first ever track race and I was happy just
to finish it, so getting a silver is blooming unbelievable! I didn’t expect to be on
the podium at all, but this is perfect. It’s my first race of any type in three years
and it’s nice to be back performing at a high level again. I can’t believe it really.
When I found out I was second, I think my heart rate was higher than when I
was racing! I’m so pleased with myself, and grateful to everyone who helped
me get here – I couldn’t have done this without them.”
Ben is now looking forward to improving his time and is keen to race in more
para cycling events.