Canberra wheelchair athlete Richard Nicholson wins City2Surf
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Canberra wheelchair athlete Richard Nicholson wins City2Surf

Canberra paralympian Richard Nicholson is already thinking of new challenges despite claiming victory in the wheelchair event at The Sun-Herald City2Surf on Sunday.

Mr Nicholson, who has competed in five paralympic games and works as a sports advisor at the Australian Institute of Sport, finished with a time of 41 minutes and 46 seconds.

"It was pretty cold at the start although the conditions became ideal once we started racing," he said.

"They've allowed elite wheelchair racers to compete since 2011 and I've completed the race four times placing first, second, third and seventh."

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Richard Nicholson, of Melba in Canberra, winner of the City2Surf in Sydney with a time of 41 minutes and 46 seconds in the wheelchair event.

Richard Nicholson, of Melba in Canberra, winner of the City2Surf in Sydney with a time of 41 minutes and 46 seconds in the wheelchair event. Credit:Melissa Adams

But the 45-year-old has not always been a wheelchair racer despite his unquestionable success.

"I've been to the last five paralympic games, first as a power lifter in Atlanta and Sydney and then switching to track and road racing," he said.

His transition between sports has led him to establish a career helping promising young athletes make a similar switch in the pursuit of Olympic gold.

"I manage a project at the AIS that identifies young athletes who are looking to compete in the Olympic Games but may not be able to in their current sport," he said.

"It's been running for two years now and hopefully we have found a few gems and given them a kick start with some support."

Mr Nicholson said wheelchair racing in large events with thousands of runners could prove dangerous unless precautions were taken.

"We always start first and the idea is to stay out in front of the runners so they don't catch up because if they do, it's inherently dangerous for everyone involved," he said.

"The weekend warriors with their iPods are not always looking out for wheelchair racers although the elite runners are usually paying close attention."

In 2004, Mr Nicholson crashed into an an able-bodied competitor and was left with a $2500 dental bill and about $1500 of wheelchair repairs.

The incident prompted him to become an advocate of the wheelchair racing events being run as a one-lap course.

Mr Nicholson, who already has his sights on a victory at The Canberra Times Fun Run in September, said ACT roads were ideal for the sport.

"I rate the Canberra course as a very good one for wheelchair racing and it's one of my regular training courses with my coach here on weekends," he said.

While speeding past Parliament House, Mr Nicholson's mind will be focused on his main competitive goal to place at the track world championships in Qatar later this year.