For ANTON RIPPON, voting for the SJA Sportsman of the Year just got personal
It was at the SJA’s British Sports Awards at the Grand Connaught Rooms in December 2011 that I found myself sitting next to a pleasant young man who introduced himself as Dan Greaves.
“What do you do?” I asked.
“I’m a Paralympian,” he replied.
“Doing what?” I wanted to know.
“The discus,” he said.
“Are you any good?” I asked.
There was an awkward pause before he told me: “Well, I’ve won an Paralympic gold medal and I’ve broken the world record, so I suppose so.” It was at the moment that I realised how ignorant I was of Paralympic sport.
The next time I saw him was purely by chance when I went to watch the Olympic torch being carried through my hometown before the 2012 London Games. The man handing it over at the spot where I’d chosen to stand was Dan Greaves. I didn’t go over. I’d already made a fool of myself once.
Greaves suffers from a foot deformity, talipes, where the foot points down and inwards with deep inner and heel creases. Despite that handicap he was good enough to win a GB Under-20 vest in 2001 as an able-bodied athlete – the first Paralympic athlete to do so for Great Britain – when he competed in a junior international match against the United States at Stoke. He finished fourth with 43.20 metres. At the same meeting a young man called Mohamed Farah won the 3,000 metres in 8min 20.35sec.
Three years later, Greaves won Paralympics gold in the F44/46 category discus in Athens, establishing a world record 55.12m. He had already won silver at the 2000 Sydney Paralympics when he was still in his teens.
He won bronze in Beijing in 2008, broke the world record again in 2011, throwing 59.98m, took silver at the 2012 London Games, and gold in the F42/44 event at this summer’s Commonwealth Games at Hampden Park. Straight after Glasgow, Greaves refocused to win the European title in Swansea, with a continental record 62.34m.
He has set his sights on becoming world champion in Doha next year and is already looking to Rio in 2016 to reclaim the title he won at Athens 12 years earlier.
Now 31, he says: “It’s been a great summer for me. It’s taken a lot out of the body but it’s so pleasing to come away with the Commonwealth and European titles, and a personal best … all the hard work has been well worth it.”
That is why I will be voting for Dan Greaves as the SJA Sportsman of the Year for 2014.
- Randall Northam: Why I’m voting for – Jo Pavey
- Craig Lord: Why I’m voting for Adam Peaty
- See our prompt list of other leading contenders
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UPCOMING SJA EVENTS
Thu Dec 11: SJA British Sports Awards, sponsored by The National Lottery, at the Grand Connaught Rooms
Mon Mar 23: SJA British Sports Journalism Awards, sponsored by BT Sport, at the Grand Connaught Rooms. Entry forms will be available in October 2014
Mon Sep 14: SJA Autumn Golf Day, Muswell Hill Golf Club