Active 2014

East End club focuses on ability... not disability

THOUGH it boasts a record-breaking membership, success on the track isn't measured in a medal haul at Red Star Athletics Club.

Loading Comments
Share
Print
 L-R: Gordon Robertson (volunteer coach), Janice Eaglesham and Ian Mirfin
L-R: Gordon Robertson (volunteer coach), Janice Eaglesham and Ian Mirfin

The small club in the East End of Glasgow set up more than 20 years ago for athletes with disabilities looks much wider to rate its triumphs.

"We measure the success of the club in terms of how it enables people to move on in terms of their life and I could tell you stories all day of things like that," says Janice Eaglesham, who co-founded the club with her partner Ian Mirfin.

"We focus on ability, not so much disability. We cross the usual range of athletics events plus specialisms such as wheelchair racing, race running and club throw."

Athletes of all ages, from under 10s to some in their 60s, come along to train at Crownpoint Sports Complex for fun and some aim for the highest echelons of competition.

Many have achieved success at national, international, Paralympic and Special Olympic level.

Gavin Drysdale won the Young Scot Sports Award 2012, Allan Stuart is a 200m world record holder, Karen Lewis Archer is a Paralympian and European/World Championship medallist and, of course, Paralympic and World Championship medallist Libby Clegg won gold in front of a thunderous home crowd in the women's para-sport 100m at Glasgow's Commonwealth Games.

And the hard work over the years of Janice and Ian was recognised in 2011 with the BBC Sports Personality of the Year Unsung Heroes Award.

"As a club the benefit, whatever your disability, is that we have athletes at performance level but I think probably the key benefit to our members is the social aspect," says Janice.

"For parents it's acceptance that their child isn't different to anyone else, they can just come along and nobody will look twice."

Training takes place at Crownpoint, which is about to be fitted with one of the Commonwealth Games tracks, alongside Shettleston Harriers and apart from a couple of changes for the disabled athletes both work together well.

"We're basically an athletics club and in an ideal world we wouldn't exist because all clubs should include people of all abilities," points out Ian, who leads the Parathletes side at Scottish Athletics and was part of the athletics team at the Commonwealth Games.

"Very slowly in Scotland we're chipping away at that. There are now athletics clubs that have people with a range off disabilities and ultimately it would be great if Red Star didn't have to exist because people could just go to their local club and they'd be welcome, regardless of ability. Hopefully that time will come.

"For our guys Hampden was a fantastic experience: a home Games and that crowd of 44,000 screaming banshees.

"Nothing could prepare them for that. All the athletes just wanted to make a final to get a second go at going out in front of that crowd, it was so amazing."

The Commonwealth Games certainly raised the profile of Para events and the club has received a number of inquiries from prospective members since the closing ceremony earlier this month.

Alongside Ian and Janice, all the coaches are volunteers and they include some fabulous role models.

No other Scottish athlete competed at international level and achieved so much over such a lengthy period of time as Paralympic medallist Gordon Robertson. He has been involved with the club for more than 20 years.

"The club training is an important social event for many of the athletes," he says.

"I loved my athletics training and now that I'm coaching I enjoy that as well. I've worked with most of the athletes over the years."

Meanwhile, the roll of honour at Red Star AC goes on... Karen Lewis-Archer is a wheelchair athlete who has competed at Paralympics.

She has spina bifida and has said disability sport made her who she is: world champion, record holder and Paralympian.

Lindsay Belton was one of the faces of the Special Olympics in Glasgow in 2005, interviewed on TV and radio and part of the opening ceremony. It wasn't always that way, remembers Janice.

"She had learning disabilities and her PE teacher at school said she wouldn't make eye contact, she wouldn't speak to you and when she came to the club that continued," said Janice.

"She wouldn't leave her mum and cried and it got to the point where we said, 'Don't make her do it'. But mum persevered and Lindsay went to the Special Olympics.

"After the Special Olympics World Summer Games in Dublin in 2003, I met her mum coming off the plane and the first thing she said was: 'I've got a different daughter'. She said, 'She's got friends, she's talking, I can't believe the change.'"

Wheelchair racer Meggan Dawson Farrell holds the Scottish record over all distances from 400m to the marathon and is ranked 12th in the world in 1500m in her classification. Meggan was placed seventh at the Glasgow Commonwealth Games in the T54 1500m.

Ian says: "She didn't take part in PE at school and wouldn't get involved in things.

"After a sports camp she was picked for athletics. She worked away for a couple of seasons and was often last but she started coming along to the club, trained really hard and at the Commonwealth Games made the final of the 1500 metres and after that she was world junior champion for 1500m.

"Sport is defining who she is, she's a transformation."

Visit www.redstarac.org.uk for more info.

Commenting & Moderation

We moderate all comments on Evening Times on either a pre-moderated or post-moderated basis. If you're a relatively new user then your comments will be reviewed before publication and if we know you well and trust you then your comments will be subject to moderation only if other users or the moderators believe you've broken the rules

Moderation is undertaken full-time 9am-6pm on weekdays, and on a part-time basis outwith those hours. Please be patient if your posts are not approved instantly.

177052

Tips to help you keep active from the Glasgow Club

  • Be realistic about what you want to achieve
  • Build up the intensity and frequency of your activity sessions gradually
  • Find an activity which you enjoy
  • Exercise with a friend
  • Use the stairs as often as possible
  • Make active choices as part of your daily routine
  • Get out at Lunchtime! Why not go to the shops or park at lunchtime instead of staying at work? The walk will also make you feel more awake in the afternoon