Blackpool's fencing ace David Heaton striving for his fifth Paralympic Games
PUBLISHED: 12:26 16 July 2012 | UPDATED: 21:38 20 February 2013
Blackpool's fencing ace David Heaton is hoping to compete in his fifth Paralympic Games. He talks to Sophie Anderson
When a traffic accident left 11-year-old David Heaton wheelchair-bound, sport helped him rebuild his life.
His first love was wheelchair basketball but three years later he discovered fencing. I havent looked back, says David, now preparing for his fifth Paralympic Games.
I was introduced to a fencing instructor and, when I went along to have a go, they couldnt believe Id never done it before, said the Blackpool-born athlete.
Davids natural talent was harnessed and he trained relentlessly until he was able to compete in his first Paralympic games in Barcelona in 1992, where the GB team won a bronze medal. Although theyve all been good, the first one will always be the best, he added. Its the atmosphere of all the teams being there, and everyone getting excited to compete.
Since then, the 38-year-old has competed in three more Paralympic games - Atlanta 1996, Sydney 2000 and Athens 20004, where he was the sole GB representative for the sport. He reached the quarter finals there but said: Im used the atmosphere that comes with having a big team surrounding you. You can rely on your mates to pick you up when youre feeling down, and you have people behind you, to celebrate your wins with. But in Athens I didnt have any of that.
David competes in category B, for athletes with no leg movement and impaired trunk and balance functions, in the foil and sabre events. The foil is a light sword designed almost exclusively for thrusting with the target area restricted to the torso. The sabre, traditionally a cutting weapon, is thicker than the foil, with a larger target area.
David describes the game as high speed chess. He said: You have to outwit your opponent, but you have to do it in a split second. Its such a dynamic and high speed sport. He also copes with the pressures that come with being a successful athlete, even one competing at an Olympic level.
You get more experienced in handling pressure as you compete more, he said. Pressure is a good thing when getting ready for a competition and Ive been competing for so long now Ive just got used to it.
Throughout the past six years, David has been training and competing in World Cups and Championships to prepare himself for the 2012 Paralympics
It will be a fantastic experience competing at the Paralympics in my own country. I know that Ill have my family and friends behind me and itll just be a really good atmosphere overall.
David spends five days a week completing an intense training regime of practice, strength training and conditioning at Morecambe, Blackpool and Bolton fencing clubs. The summer will be spent training at these clubs.
The 2012 Paralympics has its opening ceremony on August 29th and competitioopn lasts for 11 days, with wheelchair fencing taking place from September 5 7. The Games include 20 sports, 6,500 athletes and officials and 471 medal events.