After hundreds of hours of training, months of preparations and years of dedication, our Paralympic athletes will take to the sporting stage. For the first of a week-long series of articles, MATTY SUTTON talks to West of Scotland Paralympians about their hopes for London 2012
WHEN he was 12 years old GORDON REID was struck by a neurological condition which rendered him paralysed from the waist down.
As a keen tennis player and footballer, Gordon was desperate to get back to sport, and only six months after developing transverse myelitis he was at Pacer's Wheelchair Club in Scotstoun, learning to play the sport that would take him to two Paralympic Games.
Gordon, 20, from Helensburgh, will compete in the Wheelchair Tennis singles and doubles at London 2012 – his second Paralympic Games.
He climbed quickly to a high level in the sport and, aged 16, went to the Beijing Olympics.
Gordon, who attended Hermitage Academy in Helensburgh, said: "That was amazing. I went there with no expectations, I just went there to enjoy the experience and get used to that feeling of playing at Paralympics for Team GB. It was priceless."
Now Gordon is raring to go and can't wait to get out on court in London. He is hoping to follow the example of his sporting hero, Andy Murray, and bring home a medal for team GB.
He said: "I have always said Andy Murray has been an inspiration to me because he is in the same sport as me and he is Scottish as well.
"He has just gone to show that it doesn't matter where you're from, you can achieve great things."
FOR as long as he can remember JONATHAN PATERSON has played football.
Starting off in able bodied football, the 24-year-old, from Motherwell, who has cerebral palsy which affects his right side, got involved in disability football in time to take part in the Paralympic Games in Beijing in 2008.
Since then he has also captained the Scottish team, leading them to sixth place in the world rankings.
Despite having to overcome foot injuries and awaiting a foot operation, Jonathan is fit for London 2012 – and much more relaxed about London than he was in Beijing.
He said: "Even though it is a bigger crowd, if we stick to the simple game that we have been asked to play and everything that the managers have asked us to do then we will be ok."
Jonathan, who works for an insurance company in Uddingston, comes from a sporting family.
While he plays in London, brother Nicki, 27, will be in America playing football in the USL Pro league.
But the Motherwell FC supporter and former Dalziel High School pupil will have parents Margot and Stephen, grandad Papa John and girlfriend Lisa Keenan in the stands watching.
SIX years ago CRAIG CONNELL was invited to play disability football with the Scotland team.
Since then the 23-year-old, from Drumchapel, who has cerebral palsy which affects his left side, has never looked back. He will play in goal for Team GB in the seven-a-side football in London.
Craig works for City Building in Glasgow and trains twice a week at Goals Soccer Centre in Clydebank, as well as going to the gym and running.
London 2012 will be his first Paralympics and, with a stack of successes behind him, Craig said he is looking forward to it.
He said: "When I go on the pitch I know what I have to do. I have been doing it for the last six years so nothing is really different.
"It might be a bigger crowd but the game is not different."
The highlight of Craig 's career so far was playing in the Euro-pean Champ-ionships in Glasgow in 2010 where he was awarded Goalkeeper of the Tournament.
He said: "In Glasgow, we also beat England in the final game – it was a good feeling because it was on our home ground and we won't probably get another opportunity for a good number of years to play them at a big tournament in Glasgow and to beat them."
Craig's grandmother, Sarah Connell, 72, will be in London to support him alongside his girlfriend, 19-year-old Kirsty.
Craig said: "I think it will leave a legacy. Because it is in Britain it will make a difference. It will be talked about for years to come."
BROTHERS PETER and STEPHEN McGUIRE, from Hamilton, narrowly missed out on competing in Beijing.
But the Boccia players' frustration at having their spot taken by China as the host country, has only made them more determined to do well in London.
Both brothers were born with muscular dystrophy and use wheelchairs.
They will compete together in the pairs events as well as in the individual events of the precision ball sports specifically for people with disabilities.
Stephen, far right, 28, said: "The numbers are that small in our sport that to keep the numbers up and keep the quality up we have to bring in new people all the time."
Peter, right, 29, added: "The Paralympics 2012 has the potential to raise the profile of our sport tremendously.
"It is going to potentially leave a good legacy and we hope to be part of that."
At the World Championships in Lisbon in 2010, Peter and Stephen won silver in the pairs – a victory Peter says is his greatest achievement.
In individual competition, Peter was awarded the title of Scottish Champion and British Champion in 2008.
At the 2011 Europa Cup in Hamar, Norway, he won a bronze medal in the Individual BC4.
Stephen is a three-time Scottish Champion and Scottish Open Champion as well as a five-time British Champion.
Peter said they were both feeling "very positive" going into the London event.
AYRSHIRE player Scott McCowan will compete alongside the McGuire brothers in the Boccia at London 2012.
The 21-year-old, who lives in Dundonald, Ayrshire, and trains in Stirling, made his inter-national debut at the 2009 European Champion-ships in Porto, Portugal, where he finished 17th.
He has since been Scottish National Champion in 2009, 2010 and 2011 and Scottish Open Champion in 2008 and 2011 in Individual competition.
Scott is studying Psychology and Sports Studies at Stirling University and is most proud of winning the Cheshire Open –beating three world Top 10 sides in the process, including the world number two BC3 team from Portugal and the World Cup silver medallists from Belgium.