Nathan Maguire, aged 21 from Chester, is one of only three young spinal cord injured people nominated for the Spinal Injury Association (SIA) Young Person of the Year Award at its Rebuilding Lives Award 2019.
At the age of eight-years-old, Nathan went to sleep and overnight his immune system attacked his spinal cord. He woke up the next day paralysed. He was diagnosed with the rare disease Transverse Myelitis after a long stay in intensive care.
We caught up with GB wheelchair racer, Nathan for a Q and A session ahead of this month’s (July 2019) SIA Young Person of the Year Award, which Birchall Blackburn Law is proudly sponsoring…
Sport is obviously your life! Can you tell us why it is so important to you and what you get from it as a member of the SCI community?
Sport has given me a new lease of life. It gave me freedom quite quickly after my illness and gave me as normal an upbringing as possible, which many disabled people miss out on. It helped me make friends, understand and manage my disability better and also gave me confidence in the body that once let me down overnight.
When did you get the wheelchair racing bug and how does racing make your feel?
I started racing when I was 15-years-old after playing basketball for seven years. I instantly fell in love with the independence of the sport, as I didn’t have to depend on a team like I did in basketball, nor an adult or a carer. I love that a win is down to my hard work and a loss is also completely down to me and only I can correct that to improve.
Wheelchair racing looks brutal and exhausting! How much training do you do and what is the training schedule like?
I train six days a week, nine sessions a week. I am in my racing chair every day, either on the track, road or roller, and I’m in the gym three times a week with my strength and conditioning coach. Depending on where we are in the season, a training session can be anything from long 20 mile pushes, to short 30-metre starts practice and everything in between! As well as this, I also have to fit in physio therapy sessions, appointments with the team nutritionist and psychologist and university, so my schedule is always busy but also always changing, which keeps it interesting!
During a mid-January dark and cold morning, with the sleet and rain battering the windows, how do you find the motivation to put in the training?
Luckily, I spend my Januarys in Australia on a warm weather training camp, so I don’t have to endure too many of those kind of wake up calls! But on the mornings I struggle with motivation, I am really lucky to have a great support team around me, which includes my family, girlfriend and coaches, and they provide it for me. Ultimately, I just have to remind myself that if I don’t do today’s session, my rivals will have done the session and so that could be the difference in the next race between winning and coming second. Usually, that’s enough to get me out of bed and onto the track!
You’ve competed at the Paralympic Games, the World Championships, Commonwealth Games and the European Championships, can you pick a favourite moment from those experiences and events?
It’s really hard to choose a favourite moment but I think my top two are when I won my first major medal at the European Championships last year; it was a bronze in the 200m and I won it by 0.2 of a second, or when I won my first ever gold medal at a major championships, which was at the same competition, in the 4x100m mixed relay event.
What would you say your greatest achievement has been so far?
I think my greatest achievement so far was my medal winning performances at the 2018 European Championships in Berlin. I came away with three bronze medals and a gold medal – my first medals representing my country!
Do you have a favourite race distance? Is it the 100m, 800m or relay? Why?
My favourite distance is the 800m, because it is tactical and so it keeps the race open so anyone can win it.
You had a brilliantly successful 2018, what do you hope to achieve by Christmas 2019?
Currently, my aim is just to keep climbing the world rankings throughout the year but the dream is to win a medal at the World Championships in November!
Is there anyone that you would consider a role model?
My role model is Hannah Cockroft, as I want to follow in her footsteps and hopefully be as successful in my career as she has been in hers.
What advice would you give to someone recently diagnosed with a spinal cord injury and looking to take up a sport?
I’d just tell them to try every sport that they can find, or get given the opportunity to try, and then find their niche once they’ve enjoyed them all and are definitely settled on what they want to do.
If you could change anything about the world around you, what would it be?
I’d simply make it more accessible to all!
What does the work of organisations like the SIA mean to you?
I find the work that organisations like SIA do invaluable. Without such organisations, I wouldn’t be the person or the athlete that I am today. They gave me back my life and my independence and encouraged me to live as normal a life as possible whilst teaching me how important it is to look after my health.
What does it feel like, being nominated for a Young Person of the Year Award at the SIA’s Rebuilding Lives Awards?
It’s a massive privilege to be nominated for a Young Person of the Year award and to have my achievements recognised by such an organisation. Sport has helped to rebuild my life to a level that I could have never imagined and I hope that through being nominated for this award, I can inspire more people to find their passion and rebuild their own lives with it.
You’re been across the world racing, what has been your favourite destination and why? Where are you heading next?
I really enjoyed racing in the Commonwealth Games in Australia. Our holding camp was in Brisbane and I really loved it as a destination. It was a really laid back city and I enjoyed exploring it but I was also really excited ahead of the Commonwealth Games! I’m off to Dallas, Texas, this month to be part of the Michael Johnson Young Leaders course, which I was nominated to be part of by Panathlon challenge, a charity that give young disabled people the opportunity to access sports that they usually wouldn’t have access to. I’m really looking forward to the trip as it’ll be a new experience for me, a step outside of my comfort zone and a great opportunity to represent the charity.
What’s your favourite film(s)?
Lord of the Rings!
Can you recommend a TV boxset?
Gotham! I’ve just started watching the final series and I don’t want it to end!
Who do you listen to when it comes to music?
I have a very varied taste in music. I love everything from Tupac to George Ezra, but when ABBA comes on, that’s when the party really starts!
Favourite food (when you training and when you’re not)?
My favourite food is curry, but only from my favourite curry house in Frodsham, so I have to save that for a treat. Day-to-day, I love to cook and eat, and my favourite dish is lasagne with a side of garlic bread.
The Spinal Injury Association (SIA) Young Person of the Year Award at the Rebuilding Lives Award 2019 will be announced on July 11. The high profile awards will be attended by HRH The Princess Royal and are held at the home of Williams Racing in Oxfordshire.
The Young Person of the Year Award is presented to a spinal cord injured person aged 25 or under, who has provided an outstanding level of contribution to the UK’s spinal cord injury (SCI) community and their SCI peers.
The SIA is the leading national user-led charity for spinal cord injured (SCI) people. Being user led, the charity understands the everyday needs of living with SCI. They help meet those needs by providing key services to share information and experiences, and to campaign for change ensuring each person can lead a full and active life. To find out more about the amazing work of the SIA go to spinal.co.uk or call 0845 678 6633.