A 37-year-old triathlete has been left paralysed from the neck down after falling off his bike at high speed.
Nathan Ford, from Killay, Swansea, was taking part in a race in Scotland when the incident happened.
It is believed the athlete was injured after falling off his bike on a wet downhill section of the course in the British Triathlon Championships in Aberfeldy.
He was taken to intensive care where he is currently unable to move or breathe without assistance.
Nathan’s friend Richard Jellyman described the incident as a “massive shock”, as he explained: “The severity of his injuries is unheard of in the sport.
“Thankfully he is conscious and aware of what’s going on. He’s still got his personality, can understand questions and respond through moving his eyes and nodding and shaking his head a tiny amount.
“His whole life revolves around physical activity, so to see that taken away from him is just devastating.”
Nathan also runs a successful triathlon coaching business based in Swansea and is “a role model” in the sport, Richard added.
He explained: “He trains 20-plus hours a week as well as working full-time and managing his athletes. Everyone knows how much he cares about all the people he coaches – he puts so much time and effort into that.”
Nathan’s wife Catrin is currently by his hospital bedside in Scotland.
The athlete will undergo several operations to stabilise his neck in the hope he will regain some hand and arm function, his friend Richard said.
He added: “In the first 24 to 48 hours after it happened there was very little hope of recovery, but every couple of days they are seeing a little bit of improvement.
“His work ethic and his dedication to achieving a goal is unbelievable, and I know he’ll plan meticulously and put everything into getting better. That’s what spinal rehab is all about.”
It is hoped that Nathan will be transferred to the University Hospital of Wales in Cardiff once his condition stabilises.
Catrin set up a GoFundMe page to help pay for accommodation while in Scotland, as well as Nathan’s extensive recovery and rehabilitation in the future.
On the page, she wrote: “Nathan is well known and loved by so many, and we all know how strong and independent he is, but this isn’t a race he can win alone.”
Richard has also set up his own GoFundMe to raise money for his ‘Everest for Nath’ challenge in the Lake District on September 21. It will consist of climbing 29,029ft of some of the UK’s biggest peaks in 72 hours.