Josie Pearson, who won gold in the F51 discus throw at London 2012, will try to qualify for to compete in hand cycling for Team GB at Rio 2016

Paralympic gold medallist Josie Pearson is swapping track and field for hand cycling after changes to the Rio 2016 programme looked to end her chances of competing in athletics.

The 29-year-old from Hay-on-Wye won gold in the F51 discus discipline at London 2012 and hopes to take part in her third successive Games next year, having been part of Great Britain’s wheelchair rugby team in Beijing 2008.

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Pearson was left a broken neck and spinal damage after a head-on car crash in 2003. She started training as a wheelchair racer before switching to rugby in time for Beijing. After the Games she returned to athletics and ultimately won gold and set a world record at London 2012.

“They asked me would I be interested in trying hand cycling and I immediately thought I’d love to try it – it was almost like my silver lining to the black cloud that had been,” said Pearson, whose discus discipline was dropped from the Rio programme.

“It’s a much smaller squad than what I’m used to. It’s quite nice to come to a squad that’s closer and tight-knit. They support each other. Even though you’re an individual athlete on the track or the road, there’s very much a team atmosphere behind the scenes.”

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Jon Norfolk, head coach for the Great Britain Para-cycling Team said: “We’re delighted to welcome Josie onto the British Cycling Paralympic Podium Programme.

“As a Paralympic and world champion in athletics, Josie already possess the attributes it takes to be a world-class athlete and we’re looking forward to working with her to help her continue her successful sporting career as we head towards Rio.”