David Heaton in ParalympicGB fencing kit for London 2012 Paralympics

 © Getty Images

Early Life

14th April 1973 - 9th January 2021

David Heaton was born on the 14th April 1973 in Bispham, Blackpool. At the age of 11 David was involved in a road accident which left him requiring the use of a wheelchair. After his injury, David's first passion was for wheelchair basketball. Three years later he attended a wheelchair sports session in Fylde where he met Brian Dickinson, a Paralympic fencer from Blackpool, who introduced him to wheelchair fencing. Brian became David's coach helping him win national and international competitions before joining the ParalympicGB team.

Life as a Paralympic athlete

Competing at the London 2012 Paralympic Games  ©Getty Images

David represented Great Britain in wheelchair fencing, participating in both individual and team events, at five Paralympic Games. At the age of 18 he won a bronze medal at the Barcelona 1992 Games, then went on to compete at the Atlanta 1996, Sydney 2000 and Athens 2004 Paralympics.

He retired from international competitions after the Athens 2004 Games but in 2010, at the age of 39, he was called out of retirement to join the London 2012 ParalympicsGB team. David also became a mentor for the wheelchair fencing team who were all first-time Paralympians.

Recollections

Reflecting on his career, David told The Gazette in 2012:

Barcelona will always be a highlight because I won a medal when I was only 18 but I’ve never experienced anything like London. After Athens, when I reached the quarter-finals and lost to the eventual champion, I thought I was done. But I managed to make the team for London and I’ve never enjoyed myself so much. We competed in front of sellout crowds at the ExCeL and I took away so many memories.

Brian Dickinson MBE, Paralympic fencer, long-time friend and coach:

He won national and international competitions while I was coaching him, and after he got into the Great Britain team I still saw a lot of him because he always lived nearby. I remember how determined he was to make that team for London 2012. He entered the 2011 national championships and won two gold medals. Wheelchair sport is such a great community and everyone liked David, who had a great sense of humour. He was just a great sportsman.

Caz Walton OBE, former ParalympicsGB team manager said:

A hugely talented fencer, he represented Great Britain at five Paralympic Games and numerous European and World Championships. He was a popular figure internationally and a great ambassador for his country. David retired from international sport after London 2012 but continued to put time and effort back into the sport that he loved.

Retirement as a Paralympic athlete

After he retired from sports, David took up the position of Chairman of the British Disabled Fencing Association (BDFA), changing it from an association into a charitable organisation, before leaving in 2017.

Achievements and awards

Paralympic Games

David competed in five different Paralympic Games, even coming out of retirement to compete in London 2012, having last competed in the 2004 Games in Athens. He competed in a variety of wheelchair fencing categories, including Sabre Individual and Team, and Epee Individual and Team. He won bronze at the 1992 Games in Barcelona, where he competed in the Mens sabre team.

  • Barcelona 1992
    Men's Sabre Individual 2, Men’s Sabre Team, Men’s Epee Individual 2 and Men’s Epee Team.
  • Atlanta 1996
    Men's Sabre Individual B, Men’s Sabre Team, Men’s Epee Individual B and Men’s Epee Team.
  • Sydney 2000
    Men's Sabre Individual B, Men’s Sabre Team, Men’s Epee Individual B and Men’s Epee Team.
  • Athens 2004
    Men's Sabre Individual B and Men’s Epee Individual B.
  • London 2012
    Men’s Foil Team Cat. Open.

Other awards and recognition

David served as Chairman of the British Disabled Fencing Association from 2013 to 2017.

Support staff

Brian Dickinson, a Paralympic fencer, was David’s coach during his early years, before he competed at Paralympic level. In 2014, Brian was awarded an MBE, recognising his 50 years of service to wheelchair fencing. Brian himself competed in numerous national and international competitions, and won two bronze medals at the 1992 Games in Barcelona; one in the Sabre Individual 2-3, the other in Sabre Team.

References

  • https://www.blackpoolgazette.co.uk/sport/other-sport/sporting-community-saddened-loss-blackpools-five-time-paralympian-david-heaton-3101441
  • https://www.paralympics.org.uk/articles/a-tribute-to-david-heaton
  • https://www.paralympic.org/david-heaton
  • https://www.insidethegames.biz/articles/1102941/iwas-wheelchair-fencing-david-heaton
  • https://britishdisabilityfencing.co.uk/david-heaton/#:~:text=David%20was%20a%20true%20warrior,of%20the%20Men's%20Foil%20Team.
  • https://www.greatbritishlife.co.uk/people/blackpool-39-s-fencing-ace-david-heaton-striving-for-his-6933768
  • https://www.lancashiretelegraph.co.uk/news/6131579.davids-ticket-gold/
  • https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-lancashire-26685250
  • https://www.paralympic.org/brian-dickinson