A PARALYMPIAN who overcame the odds to represent Great Britain has been helping students in South Tyneside to gain a new sporting chance.
Craig McCann competed in the London 2012 Paralympic Games and aims to inspire others – taking his message of hope into the classroom at South Tyneside College.
His life changed forever a decade ago when he was found to have a brain tumour during a routine medical to join the RAF.
The resulting operation left him with nerve damage, limb weakness and hearing and sight problems, ending his armed forces career dream.
Craig, 30, turned his natural sporting talents to his advantage and in 2010 he was spotted by the British Disabled Fencing Association and, two years later, represented his country in wheelchair fencing.
That led to his current role as an ambassador for Sportivate, an Olympics and Paralympics legacy initiative that gives 11 to 25-year-olds six to eight weeks of free coaching.
Craig, from County Durham, shared his remarkable story with students who have learning disabilities during the first of two Sportivate visits to the college’s Westoe campus in South Shields.
He said: “It’s really good to talk to the students about my part in the Paralympics and Sportivate.
“I enjoyed the question and answer session with them and I was asked some very good questions.
“Sportivate is a fantastic way of getting young people into sport and that is something I am really passionate about.”
Craig, who switched to his current sport of Para-cycling, added: “I believe that as a Sport England Sporting Champion I can inspire everyone in attendance to raise their own aspirations of what they can achieve, and motivate them to be the very best versions of themselves that they can be.
“Sport changed my life. I hope Sportivate will encourage others to take up sport and raises their own aspirations.”
About 40 students are taking part in Sportivate.
Rob Grainey, South Tyneside College’s “sport maker”, said: “It’s great to have Craig here to tell his incredible story and to talk about the good work being done through Sportivate.
“One student asked him if he ever thought he would represent Great Britain when he came out of surgery. That pretty much sums up scale of his achievement.
“Some of the students do not like mixing or being in large groups, but they have come together in many ways through this initiative.”