FROM ‘lost teenager’ to Paralympic wheelchair racer, Danny Sidbury has taken an unconventional route to the top, writes Tum Balogun.
The 28-year-old North Londoner has enjoyed a whirlwind 12 months, first representing Great Britain at last summer’s Paralympics before a selection in the men’s 1500m for this summer’s Commonwealth event in Birmingham.
Sidbury, who now resides in sunny Almeria, Spain, began racing at the age of eight before his family’s relocation halted his participation just months into his journey.
And it wasn’t until he’d turned 19 and completed his studies at Barnet College that he decided to pick up the sport he had so much fun with in his youth.
He said he, like many youngsters, was ‘lost’ in his teenage years and as a result began making a list of things he wanted to achieve to spur himself into action.
Among the first points was getting back into racing.
“I got in contact with my old coach,” said Sidbury, who has been selected to be part of the Team England Futures programme with Commonwealth Games England and SportsAid.
“The coach I met at age eight and said’ ‘train me to a good enough level so I can physically do a marathon.’
“Then we kind of stepped it up a little, went out on the roads and started doing a few miles.
“Until, in 2015 I did my first London Marathon.
“And it was awesome.”
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Sidbury trained with his coach, Chris, out of Velocity Wheelchair Racing club - based in South London - to a point where he was not just ticking things off his bucket list.
But exceeding even his own lofty aspirations.
Major sporting events are a case in point. The Londoner said he only dreamt of attending the Paralympics or Commonwealth games as a spectator.
“Now I’ve actually gone as an athlete,” he said. “So [I’ve] gone far and beyond what I originally set out to.”
The Team England Futures programme will see over 1,000 talented young athletes and aspiring support staff given the opportunity to attend the Birmingham 2022 Commonwealth Games, watch live sporting action and take a first-hand look behind-the-scenes.
The programme seeks to better prepare athletes to deliver medal-winning performances as either Team England, Team GB or ParalympicsGB debutants at future Games, while also giving support staff a first-hand look at the opportunities they could be presented with, as well as challenges they may face, at a multi-sport competition.
With the Commonwealth Games quickly approaching, Sidbury now has his sights firmly set on gold when he takes to the track in August.
Unfazed by the prospect of competing in front of thousands of adoring home fans in what will be his first experience of wearing national colours in a full stadium.
He added: “It’s got to be gold really hasn’t.”
“Nothing else counts.”
Commonwealth Games England has appointed SportsAid to lead on the development, management and operational delivery of Team England Futures at the Birmingham 2022 Commonwealth Games. You can find out more about the programme by visiting https://www.sportsaid.org.uk/partnerships/team-england-futures/.