Winter Paralympics: Meenagh on a mission to get Britain on the Nordic skiing trail

Meenagh became ParalympicsGB’s first Games representative for 20 years in PyeongChang
Meenagh became ParalympicsGB’s first Games representative for 20 years in PyeongChang

Scott Meenagh’s maiden Paralympic Winter Games is still in full force but the Para Nordic skier is already throwing his attention to Beijing 2022, writes Ross Lawson in PyeongChang.

Only next time, the Scot is determined not to be flying the flag solo.

Meenagh has spent his time in PyeongChang defying both the odds and history, becoming ParalympicsGB’s first competitor in the sport for 20 years.

But with three of his six races already completed, the focus is already shifting gradually to a future where he wants other British Nordic skiers to join him on the start line.

Competing in cross-country skiing and biathlon events, the 28-year-old is under no illusions how big the challenge is to increase participation – not that a bit of difficulty has stopped him so far.

“Anybody who sits in this seat and gives it a go would agree, this is a tough, tough sport – probably one of the most difficult you could ever do,” he said.

“But I love it, I love being around such high-calibre performers, people who do inspirational and unbelievable things, it’s just brilliant.

“I’m immensely proud to be on that start line every time I race, to be a little bit competitive is a real privilege but that’s testament to the hard training that goes in to this and the team that got me here.

“I’ve only been doing this for a couple of years but we’re only just scratching the surface, we’ve got a big plan for the future and we’re not going anywhere.

“The aim is Beijing. But I hope these Games can be a chance to showcase just how awesome this sport is, the challenge, the variety, the physicality it offers, but also the accuracy and the patience to keep it together while shooting.

“If any others get involved, they would love it, hopefully there will be more people on the start line in the coming years.”

Meenagh was inspired to try Para Nordic skiing after getting a taste of winter sport during Sochi 2014, where he experienced life on the Paralympic Inspiration Programme.

Before that para-rowing was his main addiction, all after his life changed when stepping on an improvised explosive device (IED) when serving in Afghanistan, aged 21.

But the journey since has taken him to the Paralympic pinnacle, with his third race in PyeongChang coming in the men’s 12.5km sitting biathlon.

Finishing 13th, Meenagh missed five targets on the shooting range but, as he competed ski for ski with the world’s best, he allowed himself a bit of slack to be cut.

“It was not a free ride out there, you had to work for every yard in a really, really tough race – probably one of the toughest I’ve ever been involved in,” he added.

“Five shots is usually disappointing but in the grand scheme of things, with the conditions and racing as it was, I can settle for that, it isn’t good enough for this standard of racing but I’ll give it to myself for this one.

“I raced pretty hard, I’m pretty proud of my performance.

“This experience has just been amazing, each race is a whole new kettle of fish, you’ve got to hit it so hard – you can’t begin to fade away at any point in the race and it’s ferocious.

“But I’m continuing to work hard and learn, it’s what I’m here for and I’m doing everything with a smile on my face. It’s a privilege to be here.”

Sainsbury’s is a proud long-term supporter of the British Paralympic Association and a champion of inclusive sport for all. For more information on Sainsbury’s commitment to inclusive sport visit http://www.j-sainsbury.co.uk/

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