Watching the Rio 2016 Paralympics from home was never on Danny Sidbury’s agenda.
After returning from 11 years living in Spain, the then 19-year-old wasted no time in getting back into wheelchair athletics, even finding the same coach he had as a child.
After proving himself on the national stage, the T54 athlete was on course for a place on the 4x400m relay team this time four years ago, until a freak accident ruled out any chance of him competing in Brazil.
“I was getting really encouraging results and some people high up at British Athletics were noticing,” recalled Sidbury, who was speaking at a SportsAid event dedicated to championing the parents and guardians of talented young athletes..
“I wasn’t skydiving or swimming with sharks or doing anything crazy, I was on my way to training and I fell out the back of my chair and broke my elbow. It’s quite unusual for that to happen.
“I just thought it was bruising and by the time I got to training I would put some ice on it and it would be fine, but trying to push home was quite painful and then I realised it was a lot more serious.”
‘A Champion’s Breakfast’ is kicking off with a panel discussion, led by @TJL1967, featuring @TheIronLadyRuns and para-athlete Danny Sidbury 🗣 @DoctorLoosemore, Lead Consultant at @TheISEH, and David Faulkner, from The @FA, are also adding their contributions 📝 pic.twitter.com/qjpFHpkKc1— SportsAid (@TeamSportsAid) September 23, 2019
In a matter of seconds, Sidbury had gone from being a Paralympic hopeful to being ruled out for the rest of the year. Without competing he’d lost the one thing that defined him and his whole world fell apart.
“All the training I was doing gave me a sense of empowerment and now I couldn’t even get the milk out of the fridge because it was so painful, I really did drop,” added Sidbury.
“For a good couple of months I couldn’t even go outside because I couldn’t push myself in my own wheelchair, and that psychologically is not good.
“It was psychologically quite difficult to then watch the Paralympics and seeing the relay team that you were originally on and seeing them out there competing and thinking that I could’ve been part of that.”
It was a long road back to recovery for Sidbury, as he had to build his strength back up after watching it fade away during his time away from the track.
And that setback is why four years on, the now 25-year-old is looking to make up for lost time as we head to Tokyo, and he looks well placed to do so.
In every distance from 100m to half marathon he ranks in the top 10 in Europe and top 30 in the world, so the chance of returning from Japan with a medal come September seems to be high, but he’s not getting carried away with himself.
“For my T54 classification it is one of the, if not the most competitive Paralympic classifications. There are more T54 athletes at quite a high level than any other classification,” Sidbury said.
“It’s great for people to watch because you know you’re always getting a high quality field and it’s always very competitive and always very exciting, but it sucks for me because I’m in those high quality fields trying to win.
“It makes it really hard work but what’s really rewarding about it is that you have to be really good if you want to win.
“I always try to do the same thing every year which is to try and get PBs, and if that gets to me to the Paralympic Games, if that gets me a medal at any level then that’s just a bonus.
“We keep getting a little bit better and hopefully want to keep that ball rolling for 2020.”
SportsAid supports the most promising young British athletes by providing them with a financial award, recognition and personal development opportunities during the critical early stages of their careers. Please visit www.sportsaid.org.uk to find out how you can help the charity support the country’s next generation of sporting heroes!