Richard Colman was born in 1984 with spina bifida. He took to sport at a young age and was involved in many sports before a love of athletics got his full attention. He made his first state team in 1996 for the Pacific School Games and has competed regularly since at major national and international level competitions. Richard continues to play wheelchair basketball in the local Geelong league and regularly swims as part of his cross training.
Richard first competed for Australia in the 2002 IPC World Athletics Championships in Lyon, France, where he came away with a bronze medal in the T53 400m. Two years later, he won a gold in the T53 800m and a silver in the 4x100m at his first Paralympic Games in Athens. In 2006, Richard won a bronze medal in the T53 800m at the IPC World Athletics Championships in Assen, The Netherlands. In 2008, Richard on a silver medal in the T53 200m and a bronze in the T53 400m at the Beijing Paralympic Games. In early 2011, Richard won his first IPS World Athletics Championship gold medal, winning the T53 800m and also a silver medal in the T53 400m. In 2011 he also won the T53 400m gold medal at the IAAF World Championships in Daegu, South Korea. At the 2012 London Paralympic Games, Richard won a gold medal in the T53 800m and two bronze medals in the T53 400 and the T53/54 4×400 relay.
Freelap USA: Technology has changed sports generally over the years, and you are always abreast of change and timeless principles. How have you used technology to improve your performance?
Richard Colman: My more than 25 years in sport technology have played a significant role in my athletic performance. When I started wheelchair racing, I used an old, little, red chair that was a second-generation race chair with the front wheel out front. Around 2000, the chairs became longer and more streamlined. Before Athens, the chair design really started to develop into the chairs we have today. Over the past few years, we have progressed from part carbon chairs to now full carbon chairs, and we see the impact on results.
When I started racing, training was done by a stopwatch. Now we use a variety of speed metrics to monitor a range of data points. I generally train with some standard metrics: on the indoor rolls I use heart rates, time, and average HR; outside includes speed, average speed for long rolls, distance, and time. In recent years, we have done sports science testing on VO2, the push power looking at power per push, and aerodynamics testing. Plus, we use regular tests in the gym to track changes.
There is a range of new metrics that athletes and coaches use to track athlete performances, and these will develop over time.
Freelap USA: What sport science resources have helped you as an athlete and coach? With your development, I am sure you have had to take guesses, as the research is not as extensive as in other sports.
Richard Colman: Over the years we have increased our use of sport science with the examples above, including VO2 testing using a testing model but also completing some individual research. We now test more regularly in the gym and are looking at new ways to track changes and see areas for improvements while being more specific with each session athletes complete. Also, I now have a target heart rate for each session for session intensity.
Freelap USA: Travel is certainly a gift, but when competing some athletes can either get distracted or feel like they are missing out. How do you create balance while traveling?
Richard Colman: Life as an Australian athlete means sometimes weekly travel and sometimes day trips. This has become part of life, and there are no excuses for performance.
You develop what works best for you—leg compressions, upper body compressions during and post flight, rest, hydration, etc.
I have found what works for me, and it may not work for other athletes, but I now spend some time exploring the city we are in even if it’s just for a coffee, rather than just lying around in the hotel room. The more time I spend lying around, the worse my performances seem to be. I get my training done then spend an afternoon exploring the city we are in.
It is also important to have holidays after a long year rather than fly into a location, train, compete, and fly straight home all year round. But athletes need to find what works for them, especially flight times when traveling long distances, as this can make the difference between winning and coming in last.
Freelap USA: Sponsors are a big part of the sport, and you are no stranger to the process. What is your best advice for athletes who are now elite and want to get the most out of their value?
Richard Colman: Early in my career, sponsorship was nonexistent, but that changed for the better after Sydney 2000. Leading into London 2012, more athletes began finding opportunities, but it is still not enough to live off of for most athletes. With the development of technology, athletes today have the best opportunity to create value for sponsors and branding partnerships. Athletes need to be creative with their brand to generate value for sponsors while telling their stories. Always keep working hard and success will come.Athletes need to be creative with their brand to generate value for sponsors while telling their stories, says @RichardColman84. Click To Tweet
Freelap USA: What are your goals for the future in your sport? How does the average sports fan get started in learning how to appreciate performances for events they are not familiar with?
Richard Colman: Sport is ever-changing, and we need to keep up. What someone thinks is a huge performance now will become commonplace in a few years. So, we always need to strive for higher results but focus on the long term, as there will be tough times along the journey to achieving your dream. Every athlete needs to set a variety of goals, including short term and long term, but they need to be measurable and have a result to determine success.
I have set a range of goals both on the track and on the road, and I am working hard to achieve them. Some are new additions, while others are very old. I have also set a number of goals away from the track to keep me busy. It is also important to help other people achieve success, and we all have skills that we can use to help others achieve their dreams.Is it also important to help other people achieve success, and we all have skills that we can use to help others achieve their dreams, says @RichardColman84. Click To Tweet
Paralympic sport is changing and has come a long way over the past 25 years, with so many full-time professional athletes who travel all around the world and train full time. This is changing world culture.
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