The big sporting switch - how Huntingdonshire star Rob Richardson wants to join an exclusive sporting club

Rob Richardson representing Great Britain at sitting volleyball. Picture: JAY KEEPING PHOTOGRAPHY

Rob Richardson representing Great Britain at sitting volleyball. Picture: JAY KEEPING PHOTOGRAPHY - Credit: Archant

A Buckden man is bidding to become a member of an exclusive sporting club.

Rob Richardson on a para-skeleton run.

Rob Richardson on a para-skeleton run. - Credit: Archant

Rob Richardson hopes to join the select few to have represented Great Britain in the Summer and Winter Paralympics. The 33 year-old has undergone a drastic switch in a bid to fulfil his dream – leaving the relative calm of the sitting volleyball court behind him to take up para-skeleton.

Richardson captained the Great Britain sitting volleyball side in a number of major events, including the London 2012 Games, and inspired a rapid rise up the world rankings during 10 years in the game.

But he then sought a new challenge in a white-knuckle sport where competitors ride a small sled down a frozen track, reaching speeds in excess of 70mph while lying face down.

A decision on whether or not para-skeleton is accepted into the Winter Paralympics is expected next year. It is likely to feature as a demonstration event in Pyeongchang in 2018 before becoming a fully-fledged Paralympic sport in 2022 in Beijing.

Richardson said: “I played sitting volleyball for 10 years and it was a great honour to captain the GB team in European, World and Paralympic events. We were ranked dead last in the world when we started, but we managed to climb from 62nd in the rankings up to eighth during my time.

“I decided to look for a new challenge after London in 2012 and took up para-skeleton the following year.

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“I’ve been slowly learning my trade and I’m desperately hoping the sport will be accepted into the Winter Paralympics. I think I’m right in saying only four British athletes have competed in summer and Winter Paralympics and I would very much like to join that elite group.

“There is a lot of hard work ahead, but I hope there will be a shiny gold medal at the end of the road in 2022.”

Richardson finished fourth in the inaugural World Cup series last year despite not competing in all the rounds. He launches his challenge in the new season at the Park City track in Utah, America next week.

Father-of-two Richardson added: “My wife has always been very supportive of everything I’ve done. When I first told her I was taking up para-skeleton she warned me to listen to everything I’m told and not be cocky!

“They say you’re not a proper skeleton racer until you have a crash, but I’m happy to have avoided any accidents so far and hopefully it stays that way.”

Richardson was born with a deformed right foot which later caused ankle problems. He opted for an amputation at the age of 15 - something he describes as ‘character-building’.

He hails from fine sporting stock. His father, Bryan, was a cricketer for Warwickshire who later went on to become chairman of Coventry City FC.

Uncles Peter and Dick Richardson became the first siblings to play Test cricket in the same England team in the 20th century while sister Laura narrowly missed out on dressage selection for the Olympics in 2004.

Richardson combines his sporting commitments with full-time work in property. He has been supported by Witchford Village College, Living Sport and the Arctic One Foundation.