Olympic Champions to swap boats for bikes

Next time Olympic rowing champions Tom James MBE and Mark Hunter MBE don their lycra, it will be to prepare for a fight to the finish of a different kind. The decorated former GB Rowing Team rowers will be getting in the saddle to take on the British Heart Foundation’s iconic London to Brighton Bike Ride which opens to the public for registration this Saturday 18th January.

Tom, who has won gold in the last two Olympic Games as part of the coxless four, and Mark, lightweight double sculls Champion and silver medallist at the Beijing and London Olympics respectively, have joined forces to form a dynamic cycling team to ride the 54 mile journey to Brighton’s seafront in support of the fight against heart disease; a cause that both men are all too familiar with.

Just a year before his triumphant win at London 2012, Tom was diagnosed with Atrial Fibrillation – a dangerous heart rhythm disorder that affects over one million people in the UK. 

At just 27-years old and leading a healthy lifestyle, Tom was shocked to find that he was living with a heart condition. However, through quick treatment he was back into his training within weeks.

Tom says: “Had it been left untreated I wouldn’t have gone on to compete in London 2012 and win Olympic Gold. Heart disease can affect anyone, even an athlete like me. This is why I’m taking part in the BHF’s London to Brighton Bike Ride this year to help raise funds for essential research which will continue to bring life-changing treatments for the millions living with heart disease across the UK.”

And heart disease doesn’t just affect those it strikes but deals a devastating blow to families and friends too, as Mark found out.

In 1997, his dad suffered a cardiac arrest on London Bridge and had to be revived with a defibrillator four times by paramedics.

Mark remembers: “I will never lose the image of my father lying their helpless as the paramedics fought to bring him back to life. My dad is my hero and I very nearly lost him. This is why I’ll be riding 54 miles from London to Brighton this Father’s Day. It’s vital that we recognise that heart disease can affect anyone at any time and do our part in helping those that can to find the cure that’s so desperately needed.”

The BHF’s London to Brighton Bike Ride is the oldest and largest charity bike ride in Europe with 28,000 riders taking to their bikes every summer. In its 39 year history, the BHF London to Brighton Bike Ride, supported by Santander, has seen over 750,000 people get on their bikes and raise over £60 million to fight heart disease.

Coronary heart disease remains the single biggest killer in the UK claiming nearly 74,000 lives every year – that’s over 200 people every day. Thanks to the money raised, the BHF is leading the fight against it but there’s still work to do.

This year the ride will take place on Sunday 15 June 2014 setting off from Clapham Common, South London to the Brighton seafront. Ditchling Beacon is the highest point of the ride at 813 feet, and is a renowned challenge amongst cyclists. 

Registration for the London to Brighton Bike Ride opens at 10am on Saturday 18 January. Visit bhf.org.uk/l2b or call 0845 130 8663.