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Saturday, April 23, 2011

My School Sport: Paralympic gold medallist Danielle Brown hits the target

My School Sport: Paralympic gold medallist Danielle Brown hits the target
Straight shooter: rising star Danielle Brown in action Photo: PA
Interview: Syed Moiz

Where did you go to school and was sport an important part of life?
South Craven School in Cross Hills, North Yorkshire. PE was my favourite lesson before I was disabled. I'm not saying I was good at it, but I loved it.
My parents are very active and all our holidays were spent in the Lakes, walking and cycling. I ran cross-country, and played hockey and netball a few times for the school.
What happened?
From the age of 11, when I first started running, my feet hurt afterwards. I wasn't diagnosed with Chronic Regional Pain Syndrome [Reflex Sympathetic Dystrophy] until I was 16.
I can't run now at all, my balance is terrible, and when I was 16, I had to learn to walk again. At the age of 13, I had to give up all sport on my feet, so I took up archery.
School didn't make it easy, at times. I think they believed I was trying to get out of PE. I'd gone from doing most sports, to doing very little.
Do Paralympians in Britain receive enough recognition?
The corporate sponsorship of BT and Sainsbury's has been amazing because the Paralympics has been playing second fiddle to the Olympics for so long. Such high–profile backing definitely helps our profile and pushes us into the mainstream.
How did your archery career progress?
I took part and won the National Junior Championships in 2004 and 2005 – it was just for fun at that point – but the first time I was put under pressure in competition, I amazed myself and shot personal bests.
I put in 10 hours a week of practice through my teenage years. When Beijing came, my first Games, it sounds really arrogant but I wasn't prepared to come home with anything less than gold – even though it was only my third international competition.
I had won at the world championships and had a taste for it. In a way, I went to Beijing with the wrong attitude, but got the right result.
Did sport interfere with your schoolwork?
I remember being told I had to get my priorities right at A level because I was in the GB disabled archery development squad then.
I finished with two As and a B. But I went on to study Law, deferred my dissertation because my final year was in 2008, but completed it a year later with a First.
Most memorable sporting moment as a schoolgirl?
I don't really have one ... because I did so many different sports. I beat my middle sister in a fell race. It felt good because I never saw myself as good at sport.
Looking back I just needed the right sport. When I'm competing now I turn into this horrible little monster. I didn't realise how competitive I was.
Did it mean a lot to win a team gold medal at the Commonwealth Games in an able–bodied event?
I didn't really understand what all the fuss was about in the media before the Commonwealth Games. Domestically, able–bodied and disabled train together, and compete against each other in archery. It felt normal to me.
What advice would you give to schoolchildren interested in a career in sport?
Variety. There are many talented juniors who we don't see later on in the seniors. I think if you get into one sport early, there can be too much pressure.
Who were your sporting heroes when you were growing up?
I didn't actually have any. I've found some really inspirational stories among the Paralympians in the British team. I hope the public gets to hear them next year.

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