Five-time Stoke-on-Trent Disabled Sports Personality of the Year, Ian Marsden, is urging people who become disabled later in life to take up paralympic sport. He says it is easier for older people to get involved in.
Ian suffered a spinal injury in 1992 which meant he had to use a wheelchair. He became involved in handcycling, a paralympic sport where participants use their hands to pedal specially-designed cycles.
In late 2010, he was diagnosed with a rare motor neurone condition which affects his legs, brain and arms. He was forced to quit competitive handcycling and power lifting due to muscle loss.
He has since taken up target air rifle shooting with Rugley Rifle Club, and was scouted for the 2012 Fast Track Talent Programme by the GB paralympic team during his first competition.
Ian is also involved in racing canoes and won a silver medal in the K1 men’s arms-only class 200 metre canoe sprint in the Senior European Championships in Portugal in June.
Although, at 41, he is older than most athletes, he insists paralympic sport is easier to get involved in when you’re older.
He said: “Anybody who has suffered with an injury causing them to be disabled at an older age, I encourage them to get into a sport, even if it is for a hobby and not for competing.
“It helps you mentally when you are trying to recover from an injury and gives you something to aim towards.
“It’s different if you are a young disabled person because they may not be disabled enough to take part in sports, they can’t get to that level early on. That’s why you see more older competitors because they have suffered from car accidents or have been in the army.”
Ian says the way paralympic sport is categorised can be confusing.
He said: “My friend is amputated from his knee down after leaving the army and when he is taking part in competitions he’s against a man who is missing half a finger on his right hand.”
Though it seems unfair, the paralympian insisted it made no difference.
“He finishes the races in approximately 38 seconds which is only a couple of seconds behind an able-bodied person, whereas people in his category are finishing the race somewhere around 49 seconds.
“Nobody really understands how each person is put into their categories.”