February 19 - British London 2012 rowing champion David Smith has announced plans for a 29,000-kilometre charity bike ride that will see him become the first Paralympic athlete to cycle around the world.
The 34-year-old, who won gold in the mixed cox four alongside James Roe, Naomi Riches and Pam Relph with cox Lily van den Broecke at the Paralympics, plans to take in more than 30 countries when he leaves from his home nation in June to venture through Europe, Asia and the Americas to raise money for a charity that helps injured servicemen, while raising awareness of the Paralympic Movement.
Smith is also inviting others to join him as during his ride for Coming Home and a host of other charities he will have a GPS tracking him so that people can sign up to cycle beside him to use the event to raise awareness and funds for a cause of their own choice.
"It would be really great if people could come along and raise money for their own charities, and just use the cycle as a platform," Smith said.
The athlete is hoping to get other Olympians and Paralympians involved when he passes through their hometowns, and especially when he passes through cities that have or will host the Paralympic Games.
"That would be a real dream of mine - every time we pass through somewhere there could be me and an Olympian and a Paralympian," Smith explained.
"I think that would provide a great platform for future Games."
Smith is hoping he will be in full health in time for the ride having suffered a series of problems since London 2012.
He is also seeking sponsors and organisations to help him out as he is currently planning everything on his own.
"I think every athlete has that in their makeup, that when they want to go for something they go 100 per cent at it," he said.
"If it does happen, then it will become a massive dream come true.
"I'm doing everything I can, but I'm doing it all on my own right now and it's pretty hard work."
Smith explained how winning his event at Eton Dorney has inspired him to help build a legacy for the Paralympic Movement and said: "To win gold was obviously an amazing moment, and to experience everything after the Games and what the Games had done to the country as far as legacy and inspiring people - I think they really delivered.
"It was a massive moment to be part of what I felt like was a real big turning point for Paralympic sport.
"I think it really showcased to the UK and hopefully to all of the world that it is high performance sport and people are very passionate about it."
Smith has previously competed for Great Britain in able-bodied karate from 1993-1999 and bobsled from 2002-2008 before a routine MRI scan found a tumour close to the size of a tennis ball on Smith's spine in May 2009 – he has been unknowingly living with the tumour for almost 10 years.
Surgery to remove the growth left his spinal cord severely damaged.
The round-the-world bike ride is being planned to begin exactly three years to the day when he first set foot on a bike during his rehabilitation period, at which point he could not pedal for more than 30 seconds at a time.
Although his friends and family were initially shocked at his idea for the challenge he says they quickly changed his mind and now support him wholeheartedly.
"I think that they can pick up on my passion for it," Smith added.
"It inspires them already without even me being on the bike yet."
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