Para-athlete Shaun Burrows had to go through more than his fair share of hardship early in his career, but his perseverance will continue to be rewarded when he competes in his first Commonwealth Games.
Two years spent battling injuries after some initial success left the 24-year-old from Stoke-on-Trent, who has cerebral palsy and competes in the 100m and 400m in the T38 classification, questioning his future in the sport.
Feeling under pressure when it came to battling back from these only added to this, although taking some much-needed time out in 2018 left him feeling refreshed when he did return to the track.
And with his confidence restored by a silver medal in last year’s European Championships, Burrows then had the honour of representing Great Britain at the 2020 Paralympics in Tokyo.
It was just dessert for Burrows, having overcome several hurdles to reach Japan.
“The doctor we spoke to didn’t want to operate because if he did and it went wrong, I might have ended up more disabled, so I did a good job of going to the swimming pool at Loughborough to get it back to normal.
“Then later on in the same year it happened again, although not quite as bad, and then the year after my right hamstring went on me.
“That wasn’t as bad as my left, but it wasn’t very nice and in 2018 I had problems with my mental health because I felt under too much pressure.”
This summer, Team England, supported by funding raised by National Lottery players, will comprise of over 400 athletes, and having secured his place on the squad, Burrows is looking to capitalise on the once in a lifetime opportunity for medal success in his home country.
And with the Birmingham 2022 Commonwealth Games set to inspire people and communities across the country this summer, Burrows hopes sharing his story will give others motivation to get involved in sport and turn their dreams into reality.
From this low point, Burrows was able to not just get back to the form that earned him a bronze medal at the 2015 European Championships, but better it last year.
He ran a personal-best time of 53.02 seconds at the same competition in Poland to win silver, leading to his Paralympics GB call-up and a seventh-place finish in the T38 400m at his first Games.
What was missing in Japan, however, was the support of his family in person, due to the Covid-19 restrictions in that country at the time.
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On his Tokyo experience, Burrows said: “The people are really nice out there.
“It would have been nice to have had a crowd and had fans there – in fairness, we are a bit used to having no crowds, but it would have been nice to have had crowds to boost us up that little bit more.”
Thankfully, Burrows, who has competed mostly in the 100m this year rather than his favoured 400m, will be able to have his nearest and dearest at the Birmingham 2022 Commonwealth Games, where the para-athletic events will be held alongside their able-bodied equivalents.
Burrows said: “Hopefully, it will be a really big showcase for para-athletics.
“Hopefully, there will be thousands there to support us and use the power of sport in general to make it big again, like London 2012 was for us.
“We’re hoping it will bring the next generation across.”
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