Nathan Maguire - Chester's wheelchair racing champion
PUBLISHED: 00:00 16 January 2020
At eight years old, Chester's Nathan Maguire woke up unable to walk. Now, at 22, the wheelchair racing champion says it was the best thing that ever happened to him.
When I was eight I went to bed with pins and needles. The next morning I woke up and couldn't move. We'd find out in hospital that I'd contracted a rare virus, Transverse Myelitis, which had attacked my spinal cord. Although, over the next weeks, I regained feeling in my arms and shoulders there was still nothing from my chest down. I'd be in a wheelchair for the rest of my life.
I don't remember feeling devastated or resentful. Maybe that was because of my parents' attitude. I was discharged from hospital on Christmas Eve and by January 5th my dad had taken me to my first wheelchair basketball session. I loved it. I got out of my clunky NHS chair and into a lighter, speedier sports chair. When you have a disability people often want to mollycoddle you. But, here, there was nobody telling me to slow down or be careful - it was about going faster, having fun and winning.
My coach, a Paralympian herself, encouraged me to try all sorts of sports. I did swimming, waterskiing, rowing and at 15 years old went on the racing track for the first time. I was quick. So quick that the next year I was entered into The London Mini Marathon; racing the last three miles of the London Marathon course. I won, taking a minute off the course record. The next year I took another minute off - that record still stands today.
I went on to compete in the Junior World Championships winning two silvers and a bronze and have been competing since. Last year, at the European Championships in Berlin, I won three bronzes in the 100m, 200m, and 800m races and a gold in the relay. Since graduating from Liverpool John Moores, I'm a full time athlete and receive some funding from UK Sport. I've just returned from Dubai where I placed ninth in the 800m. Now my sights are set on next year's Tokyo Paralympics. Do I think I can win gold? There is no point entering if you don't.
Whatever happens, it'll be incredible. I believe my disability is the best thing that ever happened to me. I wouldn't have travelled the world, met amazing people or raced for my country if it hadn't. I'm lucky.