NEVER mind your hamstrings, your grade-two tears and your hernias, only one person who will line up in Team Scotland colours next summer will have had their preparations interrupted by a “hole in the head” that was allowing fluid to drain into her neck.
All disabled athletes are extraordinary, and Meggan Dawson-Farrell would not like to be ranked higher or lower than her peers in assessing her triumph over adversity. But she struck all the journalists who met her yesterday in the People’s Palace as an exemplar for life, both in the way she has cleared obstacles and in the way she shrugs it all off.
Throughout her schooldays in Alloa, Dawson-Farrell had wheelchair access but there was no accommodation for her desire to take part in sport. She wanted to scream at her teachers, she confided yesterday, “I don’t bite!” But it wasn’t until her parents took her to a sports camp in her early teens that she got the chance to have a go, and she has never looked back.
Next summer she will compete, aged 21, for Scotland in the Glasgow Commonwealth Games, racing against fellow wheelchair athletes in the T54 1,500 metres. This in spite of the fact she spent more than two months in hospital at the turn of the year, receiving some traumatic treatment.
“I spent from December to February in hospital, so I had to juggle that with worrying about getting qualifying times,” she said. “I had brain surgery – four or five brain operations. I’ve had a shunt inserted in my brain and in my stomach. The first time, it snapped in half and fluid was draining into my neck, which made me quite ill. Then the shunt got infected and the infection was eating away at my brain. I actually had a big hole in my head. All through that, I was determined that I could get here, that I could qualify for a home Games. Obviously I was motivated to earn selection for the team.”
John Dawson, Meggan’s father, will be humbled to know that he was name-checked for his role in getting his incredible daughter to the Commonwealth Games.
“My dad built some rollers for me to train on, so I don’t have to be outside in all weathers. They’re like the rollers cyclists use and, for wheelchairs, they’re quite expensive to buy. My dad’s a steel fabricator, so he was able to build a set of rollers for me. My mum and dad are really the people who pushed me into athletics because I wasn’t allowed to do anything at school, with being in a chair. They found athletics as something for me to do.”
The London Paralympics changed our view of disability sport forever, but Dawson-Farrell wasn’t there. If she is not one of the enduring faces of Glasgow 2014, something will have gone awry.
“I love the idea of being in the Games village next year, even though I only live 45 minutes along the road. It’s unlike the Olympics and Paralympics, which were separate events. Here, we’re all together. That means we’re no different. We’re all athletes, all the same. My aim is to come home with a medal. It’s my first big Games, which will be scary. But it’s going to have to happen one day, right?”