The location of this year's Paralympics holds special significance for cyclist Nathan Smith.

The eldest brother of All Black Conrad Smith was a typical New Zealander on his OE in the UK eight years ago when he was hit by a car and his life took a cruel turn.

"I was playing rugby in Oxford and it was 2004," the New Plymouth father of two recalled. "I got hit by a car and lost my leg but stayed over living in London for another 2 years just to get the rehab and do the OE, so I was pretty lucky, really.

"The National Health system was brilliant for me ... They got me up and walking, giving me a great prosthetic to use."


It wasn't long before a friend introduced Smith to mountain biking. Within a year he had bought his own bike and was out logging kilometres on the road.

This week, Smith returned to the UK to compete in the C1-3 men's kilo, C3 men's pursuit, C1-5 mixed team sprint, C3 men's road time trial and C1-3 men's road race at the 14th summer Paralympics in London.

"I lived here for 3 years so it's awesome to be back."

During the past two years the 36-year-old has competed in world championship para-cycling track and road events in Canada, Denmark and Italy with the help of a prosthetic left leg.

A pharmacist in Stratford by day, Smith is also a regular at events throughout New Zealand, such as the Tour of Taranaki.

"I would've done my head in if I couldn't have had something to compete in after work or on the weekends, so having cycling and being able to get fit and compete with normal guys has just been awesome," he said.

He's a medal contender in his favoured event, the pursuit, which takes place on Friday night (NZ time) but isn't ruling out a surprise on the road.

Conrad Smith said it would be a nice role reversal to watch his brother compete on the world stage and credited him with giving him an extra edge on the sporting field from their backyard battles when they were growing up.

"We were just the typical Kiwi family. There's another brother in between us and a little sister. But all three of us boys were into any sport and dad was pretty into it as well ... There was a lot of competitiveness, which I think is where I got it, from losing to my older brothers all the time."

The Paralympics opening ceremony takes place tomorrow morning.