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"COVID-19 put my Paralympic dreams on hold"

Mary Wilson explains how the pandemic derailed her chance to compete for her country

Mary Spanish Badminton Smash 2017.jpgMary was an army mental health nurse and completed four foreign tours before being discharged due to multiple sclerosis (MS). Then, aged 53, she began competing as a para badminton player, with her sights set on the Tokyo 2020 Paralympics. Since the games were postponed for a year due to Covid-19, she talks us through her training schedule and how the postponement has derailed her plans.

Competing

My plan for this year was to enter all Paralympic badminton qualification internationals to give me the chance of gaining as many selection ranking points as possible. The ground work to be able to do this was a cardio vascular and strength and conditioning gym session six out of seven days, plus being coached and playing games with my sparring partner.

It has taken many years to understand the boundaries that I have physically, initially being diagnosed with relapsing remitting MS and then being re-diagnosed with secondary progressive MS as my condition deteriorated. The condition is such a fluid and eclectic mix of different symptoms, such as lack of coordination, fatigue, pain, problems with sight, weakness in muscles, and memory loss. Trying to keep my training on an even keel depends on how I feel each day. Within 10 minutes of waking I will know what kind of day it will be for me and I take it from there. Balancing training with health is pretty much common sense. I eat well when I can, rest for a couple of hours in the afternoon if needed and try and get at least eight hours’ sleep per night.

However, I do find it difficult to eat breakfast, so often I would either go without or have to force myself to have cereal. Sometimes I would be too tired after training to cook and I would eat easy junk food or nothing at all.

On an average week, I’d train six days out of seven, with coaching, working out in the gym and sparring with my partner.

The decision to postpone

Since the postponement of the Olympics, my training regime has been blown apart due to the lack of sports facilities and being unable to associate with other players and my coach. I do believe it was the correct decision for the government to make, but that it should have been made much sooner.

Keeping self-discipline, a positive attitude and motivation is proving to be an extreme challenge. In the big scheme of things, I need to keep reminding myself that people are dying all over the world and that sport and ‘my world’ must come second to what is going on just now...

Read the rest of Mary's story in the current issue of New Pathways magazine, which is FREE to download this month! Download free copy