David was born with Spina Bifida resulting in limited use and feeling in his legs. His preference is solitary sports to team sport but does both for social reasons.Admitting his experience being active has been both a good and bad thing to date, we find ot more in his insightful interview.
Tell me about your experience of being physically active?
I got into sport when I was 13. I started with wheelchair basketball which was great for fitness and chair skills.I discovered wheelchair racing at 15 and fell in love with the sport.By my leaving cert year I was competing internationally at an elite level and close to Paralympic qualification.Unfortunately I had to retire in 2008 without reaching Paralympics which is still tough to deal with even today because track was my life for many years.When I reached an elite level I was self funding which is not possible for a long time or at all for some.The criteria to get funded is almost impossible nowadays and disability sport in general is expensive.
Has Sport impacted positively or negatively in your life?
Positively; It has thaught me discipline. When my mates were out drinking having fun I was in Switzerland or wherever competing.I trained 6 days a week and had to be drug tested randomly so everything going into my body was checked before consuming.Unfortunately I didn’t really have a plan for when it ended so I took it hard and found it harder to relate to others my own age because our experiences were so different.That discipline and ethic I lived during those years has stayed with me my whole life and can be helpful in certain situations.
I mentor junior track athletes (voluntary) when I can but my dream has always been Paralympics.Getting to travel the world,meet so many people and represent my country was a huge honour and they were without question the best years of my life so far.I have found it hard to fit into society and relate to others my age since retiring because few people can relate to my experiences.I only started working when most of my friends had been working for a few years.I feel like I am playing catch up but I don’t regret my sacrifices for my sport.
What activities/sport/exercise do you do?
Nowadays I go to the gym,basketball and a bit of training in my racing wheelchair purely for health and weight reasons.I would love to compete again but not having a coach and injuries have been an issue but the financial commitment to disability sport is huge.
What makes participating in sport/physical activity difficult?
The biggest challenge is cost and lack of support(coaching) unless you are ranked top 7 in the world which in my category (T54) is a massive expectation. A racing chair is easily €5000 without any frills,then there’s gloves,tyres,travel etc.Even club basketball costs a lot,€4000 for a chair,league fees,kit,then petrol money to games all over the country.
Why do you take part?
My motivation used to be Paralympics.Now it’s about weight loss and maintenance.I want to age well so I need to be active and health conscious.Everyone with a disability needs to be active to maintain their ability and for all around well being.When I am not active for a long period my mental health suffers.Getting out in the air and exerting myself really wakens my brain and decreases my stress.Im fiercely competitive and unhappy with my weight so I guess that’s why I still do sport these days.
I am proud of my achievements such as the Irish records I hold,completing a few marathons and getting to an elite level although I think not making Paralympics will be difficult to accept but when I’m flying down a hill in the Phoenix park in my race chair the buzz is amazing and I don’t think I’ll ever tire of that.I could go on about track for ages but I’ll stop there.
What is your wish list for sports and physical activity?
In a perfect world funding would be available at lower levels to help athletes with equipment and travel cost