‘UK Sport funding allows me to compete at Paralympic level’ | Money

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I started playing the ball game boccia after going to 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 target sport with the aim of getting more of your coloured balls closer to a white ball, the jack, than your opponent. It’s similar to bowls and pétanque, but there’s no Olympic equivalent – it’s only in the Paralympics.

Scott and I live with our parents and have our dad and other staff as carers. We started off representing Scotland, then got into the Great Britain squad, and Scott competed in the London Paralympics. We also competed in the Rio Paralympics.

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

The boccia programme for this Paralympic cycle, and the buildup to Tokyo 2020, receives about £3.7m from UK Sport. As part of this, I have an athlete performance award for sporting costs of £1,250 a month, or £15,000 a year.

The award varies depending on what level the athlete is at; the more success you have, the higher up the levels you can go. Our level of funding is deemed “podium potential”, which means we have the potential to win medals at world championships and the Paralympics, but haven’t done so yet. Its purpose is to support athletes to train with less financial worries. I spend my award on equipment. A set of 13 boccia balls costs between £300 and £700. After the Rio Paralympics we made tactical changes that required new sets of balls. There’s other equipment, too, such as the ramp and a helmet with a pointer on the end to release the ball. We had to get new head pointers, which cost about £100 each time.

We also spend money on a van to transport our wheelchairs and equipment, taxis, as I can’t drive due to my condition, and a sports hall to train in. Sometimes we need to take a taxi to a venue 30 or 40 miles away, which adds up to a couple of hundred pounds. Other costs include airport parking, food at competitions and supplements.

The funding also pays for our physical-conditioning 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 any sport, it’s about those small percentages in performance and the money has contributed to us being one of the fittest squads. When I was more able, the funding also paid for gym membership, but now I use it to access hydro pools and strength programmes that help me play at an elite level.

Part of the funding agreement is that we have to make a number of appearances at schools and sports clubs. It’s great to show others what disabled people are able to do and to inspire them.

Away from the sport, Scott and I like going to gigs – we go to four or five a year. I spend a lot of money on music – my favourite album is Hotel California by the Eagles, it’s perfect. We like football, too, and support Celtic and watch them play.

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

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