From Hannah Lawton, our Sports Recovery Manager:
I was very sad when I heard the news that Margaret Maughan had died at the age of 91. She won Britain’s first ever Paralympics gold medal at Rome in 1960; 52 years later she lit the last petal on Thomas Heatherwick’s cauldron, officially opening the 2012 London Paralympic Games.
Maughan won gold in both archery and swimming at the 1960 Games in Rome, just a year after she was paralysed from the waist down after a car accident in Malawi, and went on to compete in four further Paralympics and win four more medals. She became a pioneer for the Paralympics movement in the UK and myself, along with all of our Paralympic military athletes and future hopefuls, will be forever grateful for the path she built for us. Margaret’s achievement started a movement to change perceptions of disability, showing the power of sport in rehabilitation and the potential for people to thrive.
At Help for Heroes we have long championed the role sport can play in the recovery journey of our Veterans. This is something Margaret epitomised following her car accident. It is not just about physical exercise as a means to recovery; it is about sport helping give those who have suffered terrible injuries or illnesses something to aspire to. Having goals and aspirations, no matter how big or small, helps Veterans rediscover their motivation and gives them a renewed sense of focus and purpose. It also increases their confidence when they realise they need not be defined by their new circumstance and that they can still do or play something they previously loved.
Help for Heroes is proud to work with a special group of military athletes on performance programmes. Their dreams of a life serving our country ended and each has had to take on their biggest battle yet – the battle to rebuild their life. Much like Margaret, on the road to recovery, each Veteran discovered the power of sport to change their life and slowly, a new dream emerged. The dream to represent their country once more in sporting events such as World Championships and the Summer and Winter Paralympic Games. A chance to wear their flag with pride again. We have 10 of our Veterans who are hoping to be selected for Team GB at the Tokyo Paralympics next year. I’m sure each and every one of them will be inspired by the legacy left by Margaret.