© PABritish Paralympic cyclist Simon Richardson, who is in a critical condition after an alleged hit-and-run incident, with one of the two gold medals he won in Beijing.
Simon Richardson, the triple medal-winning Paralympic cyclist struck by a van in an alleged hit-and-run incident while training in Wales, remains in a critical condition in hospital although his injuries are not believed to be life-threatening, a friend has said.

The collision involving the 44-year-old, who won two gold medals and a silver at the Beijing 2008 games, took place near Bridgend on Wednesday morning. It is a particularly cruel blow for Richardson given that his participation in Paralympic events came about after another cycling accident in 2001, when lost the use of his left leg after colliding with a car.

"It's like a worst nightmare being repeated 10 years on," said Phil Jones, a company director who sponsors Richardson and has become a friend. "If you think of what he has fought back from, what he has achieved, to be almost back to zero will require immense mental toughness."

Police said Richardson, of Porthcawl, was apparently struck by a small white van travelling in the same direction along the A48, causing injuries to his spine, legs and a lung as well as a broken pelvis and breast bone. The van did not stop at the scene. A 59-year-old man has been arrested concerning the incident.

Richardson was being taken to the operating theatre at the University Hospital of Wales in Cardiff later on Thursday for an assessment on his spine, which is believed to have more than one fracture, and the deep lacerations to his legs, Jones said. The cyclist's wife, Amanda, told him Richardson appeared "a bit perkier" this morning and that she believed his life was out of danger. Jones added: "I sincerely hope so, although that hasn't been formally confirmed."

Richardson was a club cyclist before his 2001 accident, which left him with virtually no use of his left leg due to spinal and other injuries. He continued to cycle as part of his rehabilitation, and became a top competitor in the Paralympic cycling L3 and L4 categories.

Richardson won gold in the individual pursuit and 1km time trial in Beijing, also getting a silver in the longer time trial, part of a record haul which saw the British team come second in the medals table with 42 golds.

After 2008 the cycling disciplines were reclassified and Richardson found himself competing against athletes with less serious disabilities, meaning he dropped out of the GB elite squad, said Jon Morgan, executive director of Disability Sports Wales. Rather than retire, Richardson trained hard to improve his times and try to win a spot for the 2012 London Paralympics.

Morgan said: "What this shows is Simon's determination and commitment and his drive. After Beijing and then the reclassification a lot of people might have said, 'Well, that'll do for me'. But he carried on."

Jones said Richardson had been racing against able-bodied riders as part of his training regime, and had been hopeful about making the 2012 squad. "He wanted to let his results do the talking, so that when the crucial moment came, British Cycling couldn't overlook him."

Gareth Sheppard, manager of the British Paralympic cycling team, said people in the sport were "shocked and saddened" at the news. He said: "Simon won three medals for Britain at the Beijing Paralympics and we hope the same determination and strength that have made him such an outstanding athlete will help him pull through this difficult time. Our thoughts are with him and his family."

Richardson's wife said in a brief statement: "I'd like to thank everyone in the cycling community and other wellwishers for their messages of support for Simon. He will be heartened to know that people are extending their positive thoughts and encouragement to him during this difficult time."