‘UK Sport funding allows me to compete at Paralympic level’ | Disability and sport


I I started playing boccia after taking part in the Ayrshire Special Games when I was nine and had just started using a wheelchair. I didn’t think Paralympic sport was an option at the time, but the Scottish coach saw I had potential.

My brother Scott (also a Paralympian) and I have Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy and both play boccia, a targeted sport whose goal is to get your colored balls closer to a white ball, the jack, than your opponent . It’s like boules and pétanque, but there’s no Olympic equivalent – ​​it’s only at the Paralympic Games.

Scott and I live with our parents and have our father and other staff as caregivers. We started off representing Scotland, then we got into the Great Britain team and Scott competed in the Paralympic Games in London. We also participated in the Paralympic Games in Rio.

Our category in boccia is called BC3, which means we have to use a ramp to propel the balls and have an assistant to drive the ball down the ramp – mom and dad are our assistants.

The boccia program for this Paralympic cycle and preparation for Tokyo 2020 is receiving around £3.7million from UK Sport. As part of this, I have an Athlete Performance Award for Sporting Fees of £1,250 per month, or £15,000 per year.

The price varies according to the level of the athlete; the more success you have, the higher you can level up. Our level of funding is considered ‘podium potential’, which means we have the potential to medal at the World Championships and Paralympic Games, but haven’t done so yet. Its goal is to help athletes train with less financial worries. I spend my price on equipment. A set of 13 bocce balls costs between £300 and £700. After the Paralympic Games in Rio, we made tactical changes that required new ball games. There are also other equipment, like the ramp and a helmet with a pointer on the end to release the ball. We had to get new head pointers, which cost around £100 each time.

We also spend money on a van to transport our wheelchairs and gear, taxis as I can’t drive due to my condition, and a gym to train in. Sometimes we have to take a taxi to a place 30 or 40 miles away. , which represents a few hundred pounds. Other costs include airport parking, food at competitions and supplements.

Funding also pays for our fitness equipment. We use the money to improve our neck control and for the use of head pointers through a neck resistance harness, which costs £100-150.

Like in any sport, it’s all about those small performance percentages and the money has helped make us one of the fittest teams. When I was more capable, the funding also paid for gym memberships, but now I use it to access hydro pools and weight training programs that help me perform at an elite level.

Part of the funding agreement states that we must make a number of appearances at schools and sports clubs. It’s great to show others what people with disabilities can do and to inspire them.

Outside of sports, Scott and I like to go to concerts – we go to four or five a year. I spend a lot of money on music – my favorite album is Hotel California by the Eagles, it’s perfect. We also love football, we support Celtic and watch them play.

Duchenne muscular dystrophy is a deteriorating disease, so it’s great to travel around the world and play sports at such a high level. Sport has changed my life for the better.


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