Marie Connell née Ratcliff's recollection of almost becoming a Paralympian

I always loved sports. I captained the teams at school including netball, hockey, basketball, rounders and tennis. One year at school we were trying out for school sports day and I had a go at the javelin. I managed to throw the furthest and therefore qualified for the school sports day. Dad made me a javelin to practice with using a bamboo cane with a weight attached to the end. I won at sports day and then joined The West Norfolk Athletics club. I also did some sprinting but my main sports were javelin, discuss and shotput.

I competed most weekends for the club and also trained hard with the field coach who was called Keith. In 1988 he invited Wilf Paish (coach to Daley Thompson and Tessa Sanderson) to come and take one of the training sessions. He was a fabulous coach and after just one session he had me throwing another five plus metres on my usual throws. He asked me why I wasn’t on the national radar in terms of disability sport and told me that my javelin throws were good enough to get me into the Paralympic team that would be going to Seoul in 1988. As an eighteen year old from sleepy Norfolk, this was quite exciting to hear. He said I needed to compete at a national event to get a qualifying throw and said the best one would be the BASA (British Amputee Sports Association) Games at Stoke Mandeville. So off I went.

My memories are a little fuzzy - but I think the event was in May 1988. I was sponsored by a local factory - Campbells - they paid for my travel and overnight accommodation. Some friends came from the Athletics club as well as my mum. Unfortunately no one took a camera and therefore there are no photos of my participation at the event. I remember watching other events - one was a 400 metre race for leg Amputees - one memory that sticks in my mind is that one runners artificial leg fell off during the race. He laughed, his competitors laughed and spectators laughed. Another memory I have is that Richard Wilson - the actor from One Foot in The Grave - was there filming using quite a large old fashioned video camera. I remember getting ready for my events - I think the javelin was first. I can’t remember the distances that I threw but I did get a British record with my second throw and I was pumped for my third throw as I was less than a metre off throwing a world record. My third throw was not the world record I had hoped for but I still won and was presented with my medal on a rostrum - and the national anthem was played. I remember feeling very proud. I came second in both the shot and discus. Again I have no recollection of my distances or the events themselves. I wish I had taken the time to just soak in atmosphere from the day and also make sure I had a camera to record the days events. I went home having won a gold medal and having thrown a British Record.

Word soon got around back in Kings Lynn and I had some photos taken by the local paper with my medal, some pictures taken with my sponsors - and for a couple of weeks I was a bit of a star locally. My employers at the time bought me a javelin to say well done.

Unfortunately I heard soon after the event that due to lack of funding there would not be enough money to send a full field team to Seoul for the Paralympics - so I never got to represent my country at a national level.

If anyone reads this who was at the event at Stoke Mandeville - it would be great to hear what your memories are.