A DISABLED athlete from Sunderland has had her stolen “lifeline” bicycle replaced.
Eleni Papadopoulos, who was second in last year’s Paratriathlon World Championship, was devastated after the specially-adapted bike was taken from outside the aquatic centre where she was training.
The 22-year-old, who struggles to walk as she has cerebral palsy, appealed for the white and silver Scott Speedster to be returned.
After reading about her plight on the Echo website, the firm which makes the specialised cycle stepped in and offered to build a new top-of-the-range 2015 Scott Speedster 30 Racing.
Eleni, who is studying law at Manchester University, said: “It was my lifeline, I was devastated.
“That bike gave me my independence.
“It had sentimental value to me too as I won my first British Triathlon Championship on it, which meant I qualified for the World Championships.”
The £1,500 bike was stolen from outside Manchester Aquatic Centre on Wednesday night.
After reading the story on the Echo’s website last week, Keith Murray, from Scott UK, based in Cramlington, offered to step in and replace it.
Eleni added: “I never thought I’d receive such support, so to be told I was getting a new bike felt amazing.
“I never thought someone would be willing to do something so generous for me, and for it to be Scott too is even more special, as I love their bikes.
“My race bikes have both been Scott in the past and I don’t think I will ever purchase another bike now unless it is a Scott.
“But this would never have happened if so many people were not willing to help me and for that, I am extremely grateful and indebted to them. My awful week has turned around.”
Mr Murray said: “When I read the story in the Echo that Eleni’s training bike had been stolen, we, as cyclists, were pretty gutted for her
“Having spoken to our friends at Scott dealer KB Cycles, we thought that we could supply her with a brand new bike, to get her back on the road and keep her training going.
“KB Cycles owner Keith Bradley said that he will take delivery and arrange the modifications that Eleni needs to get her back and pedalling as soon as possible.”
Eleni, who trains 30 hours a week, locked the bike outside the swimming centre because she was poorly and unable to cycle home. But when she returned at 4.45am, it was missing, and some other bicycle locks had been tampered with.
Eleni, who trained at Sunderland Aquatic Centre before moving to Manchester to study the first of two degrees, is not a funded athlete and said she could not have afforded to replace the bike, which she won her first British Triathlon Championship on.
Originally from Fatfield, Eleni, who set a world record for 200m butterfly in the S10 category, is a hopeful for the 2016 Rio Paralympics for both the triathlon and swimming.