The goal of making his debut on the world stage is something that T38 400m specialist Ross Paterson (coach: John Kinder; club: Red Star) is targeting as his 2019 season on the track hones into view.
Paterson made his British debut last summer in Berlin, where he took silver in the men’s T38 400m, before returning to the track a few days later and finishing fourth in the 200m.
Stepping out onto the track in a British vest for the first time is a moment that the 20-year-old will not forget in a hurry and is keen to make sure he can be back in a British vest at the World Para Athletics (WPA) Championships in Dubai in November.
He said: “When I walked out onto the track in Berlin with my British vest on, it was the best feeling ever and it gave me goosebumps. It was nerve-racking at first because it was my first time on the line representing my country, but then I just thought ‘let’s just treat this like another race’ and I had all my focus on what I was going to do.
“I was just there in the moment and I knew that I had my team behind me and I knew I had to go out and run as hard as I could.
“That feeling when I crossed the line and seeing that I had a silver medal was like ‘wow’. It really didn’t hit me at first until I was walking away, and that’s when I realised just what I’d done.
“Now the target is the World Championships. To be selected for the Worlds would mean everything. That’s what myself and my coach John Kinder are working towards. We’ve got a goal that we want to achieve and we have competitions lined up in order to get there.
“Every competition is basically a cup final for me and if I keep consistent and get faster and faster in good time, I’ll be all ready for Dubai.”
Prior to competing in Berlin, the 20-year-old won his first international medals at the CP World Games in Barcelona in August, claiming bronze medals in the T38 200m and 400m.
The experience of being able to race out in Spain he feels left him in the best possible position heading to the European Championships as it gave him a flavour of what to expect.
“My time away in Barcelona was exhausting because I had seven races in three days. Especially with it being my first time away competing, it was interesting. The temperatures were high and it really took it out of my legs, especially given it was just before Berlin.
“The standard of competition was really high and to come away with two medals I was really pleased. When I went to Barcelona, it gave me the feel for running in high temperatures and a feel of the calibre of competition I would be going up against in Berlin.
“It gave me an indication of who to look out for and what to expect having raced some of them in the weeks before Berlin, but as for the competition itself was really good to be able to come away from the games as a double medallist,” he assessed.
Paterson is part of the British Athletics Paralympic Futures Programme, which is a key part of the Paralympic Performance Pathway and helps to identify athletes with the potential to win medals at future Paralympic Games, and WPA Championships.
He is benefitting from the programme by being able to compete on the WPA Grand Prix circuit for the first time this year in Grosseto, Italy.
He feels that being able to utilise the programme in such a way that will help to benefit him moving forwards into a major season in his development will give him the perfect platform to raise his game in preparation for Dubai.
“It’s a fantastic honour to be on the programme and to have people believing in you and your abilities pushes you even more to want to do well on the international stage.
“The programme has given me the chance to race in Grosseto on the WPA Grand Prix and I’m really grateful to have the opportunity to race in such a big fixture in the athletics calendar.
“It’s a great honour to be able to head there and to race on the circuit for the first time in my career. A lot of the guys that were on the team in Berlin have been able to race on the circuit and in Grosseto before and it really spurs you on to do exactly the same.
“The programme has enabled me to have an effective training plan that fits around my work and my personal life so that I can have a setup where I feel I am best supported throughout the season,” he added.
Classified as a T38 athlete, Paterson has right sided hemiplegia, which affects his movement and coordination down the right-hand side of his body. He explained what it is like for him competing as a T38 athlete.
He said: “To look at me when I’m walking you wouldn’t notice my hemiplegia too much, although when I’m tired that’s when it becomes more noticeable. When I’m running that’s where you can see the coordination problems and the lack of control on my right side.
“It’s difficult when you’re running around a bend, especially because your brain is telling you one thing, but because I have brain damage affecting the right-hand side of my body, sometimes the muscles don’t always do what the brain wants it to do.
“When you’re in competitions, it becomes about keeping your form and your knees high and driving round the bend. Once you’re in that moment, you’re trying to keep both your breathing and your muscles relaxed and not tensed.”
Alongside his athletics, Paterson relaxes by coaching future football stars at local side St Convals, giving kids the opportunity to participate in sport.
He feels a great sense of pride to play his part in helping to develop the team and hopes that it will aid him as he looks towards future coaching opportunities.
“They [the players] see me as a bit of a role model because of what I’ve achieved and a couple of them have started running at their local athletics club after hearing of my experiences.
“It’s in my plans to get my coaching badges for athletics, but I see that as something further down the line as I still have loads to give on the track first,” he asserted.