WITH the London 2012 Paralympic Games upon us, Caroline Maclean and Zoe Newson will be hoping this once-in-a-lifteime opportunity will result in glory.
For wheelchair basketball star and two-time St Edmundsbury Sports Personality of the Year Maclean, an appearance at her fourth Paralympic Games will come with an added sense of accomplishment after funding the majority of the trip by herself.
While some of the world’s top athletes are paid hundreds of thousands of pounds a week to play, Maclean is having to take unpaid sabbatical from her work and relying on a small amount of National Lottery funding and her life savings in a bid to fulfil her goal of winning a Paralympic gold medal.
“It’s pretty crazy,” she said. “I feel sick and nervous one minute and then excited the next.”
Maclean, who plays for Sudbury-based Eastern Blue Stars, added: “It’s pretty tough.
“I get a small amount of lottery funding, but that just about covers the petrol I use to get around the country.
“It was a case of take time off work and go for it or not bother at all.”
The huge success of the Olympics reiterated to Maclean she made the correct decision and hopes Team GB’s women’s wheelchair basketball players can join those who raised their game to clinch a medal thanks to the terrific home support.
“It was great to watch the people who weren’t expecting to get a medal do so well,” she added.
“It will be the biggest crowd we’ve played in front of — it’s going to be pretty crazy.”
Meanwhile, powerlifter Newson is preparing for her first experience of a Paralympic Games and competing on the world’s biggest stage.
The 20-year-old, who is currently ranked fifth in the world despite only taking up the sport in 2008, is focused on not letting the heightened expectations weigh her down as she looks to eclipse her current personal best of 88kg.
“It is very exciting to be competing in the Paralympics,” said the Suffolk Spartans member. “You never know what to expect from the atmosphere, but hopefully it will be amazing and help push me on.
“I’m trying not to focus on the medals too much at the moment because I just want to concentrate on improving my personal best and after that just see what happens.”
Newson’s family will be among the expected capacity crowd at the ExCeL Arena next Thursday to see her compete in the women’s under-40kg category and brother Sam, a current Needham Market striker, spoke of his pride and excitement at seeing his younger sister taking on the world’s best athletes.
“Obviously we are all really proud of what she has achieved and we are really looking forward to going down and supporting her,” he said. “It is an extremely proud moment for her and all our family and something we will all remember for the rest of our lives.”