Growing up, I was a self-confessed couch potato. Sport wasn’t my thing – or at least, I didn’t think it was. We had tried to find something for me to do, but there just didn’t seem to be anything out there. I was a spectator watching other people play sport.

Then came London 2012.

I’d watched the Olympics and got caught up in the build up to the Paralympic Games, so much so that I decided to embark on my first significant journey alone from my home in Cheshire down to London. Having found myself yelling at the television in support of Mickey Bushell as he won his gold medal, I made a big effort and was fortunate to secure tickets for an evening session of athletics. This turned out to be ‘Thriller Thursday’ where Hannah Cockroft, David Weir and Jonnie Peacock won their golds. I could sense the excitement as soon as the train pulled in.

Andrew Small with his gold medal in Tokyo

Having a disability in your formative years can be quite isolating if you don’t know many people in a similar position to yourself. Watching the athletics, I felt a sense of togetherness I had never experienced before - everyone was united by a positive sense of pride and enthusiasm. London 2012 thrust the Games in peoples’ faces and brought disability sport to the forefront.

On my journey home, I already knew it was something I wanted to try – I knew it would be a chance to meet people in a similar position to myself, even just socially. I just had to give it a go!

A couple of days later, I saw an advert for Parasport, so I put in my information and up popped the details for a coach and a club in Stockport, led by Rick Hoskins. I called him and explained I wanted to give Para athletics a go and he invited me down to try it out.

The first thing Rick said to me was that he’d seen more meat on an oxo cube – admittedly I was pretty scrawny. He had a racing chair set up on some rollers and I remember doing a few pushes and thinking gosh, this is pretty tough. But I couldn’t have been too bad – he turned to me and said ‘I think you’re going to be a sprinter’.

When I got in the racing chair for the first time, the whole experience felt like an extension of my trip to London. It was thrilling; I’d used the same equipment as the athletes at the Olympic stadium and I immediately felt transported back to the excitement of that evening where I’d watched the Paralympians winning their medals.


On my journey home, I already knew it was something I wanted to try – I knew it would be a chance to meet people in a similar position to myself, even just socially. I just had to give it a go!

Andrew Small

By the end of that year, I’d joined a training group. I was around people in similar situations to mine and it allowed me to open up more freely. It was almost like a form of therapy. And I immediately had a taste of what could be - my first racing chair was David Weir’s from Athens 2004.

I made my international debut at the 2016 European Championships in Grosseto, Italy. Two months later I was on a plane to Rio for the Paralympic Games! Going from spectator to teammate in the space of four years – I still have to pinch myself. I won 100m T33 bronze in Rio, so to go on and win gold at Tokyo 2020, four years later, was a huge part of my journey.

I believe London 2012 was the catalyst for change in our society. It promoted more open conversations around disability. As a result of 2012, our society has become more inclusive; allowing people from all backgrounds to access sport and find common ground where, previously, they may not have had the opportunity to do so. We’ve got a way to go but I think we are moving in the right direction – we just need to continue pushing the narrative.

Media coverage of Paralympic sport has changed and expanded and I’m proud Great Britain leads the way. It allows us to lend voices to those who may not feel heard, with a global stage to highlight the problems disabled people may be facing.

For me, London 2012 clearly had a massive positive impact. As an elite athlete, I have a new sense of self confidence and belief in my own ability. I’m a very different person now - not just in my health, but as an individual. Sport has brought me out of my shell. It has had a profound impact on my life. I was born prematurely with a 5 per cent chance of surviving; through sport I have thrived. I believe passionately in protecting the inclusive legacy of 2012 which encourages people to find a home in sport and provides opportunities for them to compete.

On my return from Tokyo, I was humbled to hear that my story had provided hope for others; particularly families with premature babies.

I am enormously proud to have been honoured with an M.B.E. for services to Disability Sport. If people take up sport and benefit from it themselves, this is what I want to be my contribution to the legacy.


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