Winning Students


Paralympian Dines beating the odds in positive trike season

28 July 2017
Having faced numerous challenges since competing at the Rio Paralympics, Hannah Dines is starting to find her form again in the new season.

Having faced numerous challenges since competing at the Rio Paralympics, Hannah Dines is starting to find her form again in the new season.

Despite having finishing as high as fifth in last summer’s Rio Paralympics trike cycling event it was not immediately obvious how Glasgow’s Hannah Dines would arrive at the start line this season.

After the highs of Rio followed what the 24-year-old calls emotional ‘whiplash’.  Things got worse still when she lost her national funding - then her race trike was destroyed when a thief set fire to her car with her bike inside.

But the resilient Glasgow-born athlete was never going to let a few road bumps spoil her progress. 

Friends, family, competitors and other well-wishers rallied and raised sufficient funds for a new bike within days of her beginning a crowdfunding appeal.  Dame Sarah Storey then took Dines on as a member of her racing team, and a new coach arrived in the form of John Hampshire, who already coached Hannah’s friend, Paralympic gold medallist Karen Darke.

“Not being on the British Cycling squad at the moment has enabled me to make my own structure,” said an upbeat Dines, who was born with cerebral palsy and competes in the WT2 classification.

And her programme seems to be working with a solid start to the season seeing her secure fourth and fifth place finishes at the World Cup event in Ostend, Belgium, before a bronze medal at the UCI Cologne Classic in Germany. Her form has since continued and she won both the Time Trial and Road Race events at the British Cycling Para-cycling National Championships this past week in Cheshire.

As well as an effective training programme, Dines performances can be accredited to spending time between racing learning from the best in her sport, including current Olympic champions, Hans-Peter Durst and Carol Cooke.

“We train together but it’s more just about if you hang out with athletes you become aware of how they deal with certain problems; you can understand things better,” explained Hannah, the sport’s youngest female racer.

“They see a future for the sport and they want to help develop that.”

Hannah has turned another corner in recent months after deciding to study again through the Open University. 

Having already graduated with a science degree she decided on a change and settled for a subject she was already keen on: “I asked myself ‘what else am I interested in?’ 

“Writing is one of my great passions, especially creative writing so when I saw that as an option it was like ‘let’s do that’, I get to use my brain for something.”

Hannah is one of 150 students supported by Winning Students, Scotland’s national sports scholarships programme for student athletes.

Through the programme she receives funding support and the academic flexibility required to perform at the highest level in sport and studies.

Eighteen Scottish universities and 25 colleges form the Winning Students network, with the programme being funded by the Scottish Funding Council. Students at network colleges and universities benefit from a dedicated co-ordinator to ensure they can balance their studies and sport effectively.

“Winning Students is the only reason I can afford to do this season,” said Hannah.

“The funding I receive helps cover the cost of my coach, the majority of the accommodation when I am away, as well as my travel and food.”

Although she admits that she is not quite back to the form yet she had in Rio, Hannah hopes her plan for gradual improvement will see her qualify for September’s World Championships in South Africa.

For someone who considers racing a ‘fuel as important as food and water’, this season is helping her banish the lows that followed the thrills of Rio and maybe even back on track towards a place for Team GB competing in the 2020 Tokyo Games.

“On race day there is a special kind of race day magic and I perform about double what I ever did in training,” Hannah explained.

“So it’s like the best thing ever, whether or not I’m in the best shape.  I’m getting better at consistent training and right now I’m in enough shape to be with the bunch and give them a good challenge.”