20 May 2020
1928 - 2020: Margaret Maughan
A trailblazer of the Paralympic movement, Margaret Maughan, has passed away aged 91 years old.
Margaret won Great Britain’s first ever Paralympic gold medal at Rome 1960 and competed in a total of five Games.
She remained a fervent advocate of the power of sport for disabled people and her pioneering status meant she was invited to light the cauldron at the opening ceremony of the London 2012 Paralympic Games at a packed stadium.
Margaret was paralysed from the waist down in a road accident in Malawi in 1959. She returned to Britain and was treated at the National Spinal Injuries Centre at Stoke Mandeville Hospital by Dr. Ludwig Guttmann who pioneered the use of sport in therapy and is acknowledged as the founder of the Paralympic Games. During her rehabilitation Margaret took up archery and joined an archery club.
Margaret Maughan in Rome 1960 (credit: Wheelpower)
She was Britain’s first Paralympic gold medallist, winning in archery at the Rome Games in 1960. She competed in one archery event, the Women’s Columbia round open. Scoring 484 points to win Britain’s first ever gold medal but a mix up in the scoring meant she was only told she had won when on the team bus about to head back from the venue.
Margaret recalled: “Someone came on the bus and shouted, where’s Margaret Maughan? They had to lift me off, find my wheelchair and take me over to a very nice little podium.
“I didn’t realise I was in the middle until I got there and received a gold medal – it was in a very nice little leather box.
“I got back on the coach again and nobody said well done or anything because nobody realised what had gone on. It was only later I discovered I had won the first medal!”
Margaret also took part in swimming, in the Women’s 50 metre backstroke complete class 5. As she was the only competitor in the race, she won her second gold medal by completing the full 50 metres, with a time of 1:49.2.
Margaret won a total of five medals during her Paralympic career, three gold and two silver. She competed at the 1960, 1968, 1972, 1976 and 1980 Paralympic Games and represented Great Britain in Archery, Swimming, Dartchery and Bowls.
I felt very, very proud to be a part of such a huge movement. From a small beginning in the simple days to seeing what it had become with such large teams has been a marvellous feeling.
When asked how she felt about having the honour of lighting the Cauldron during the London 2012 Paralympic Games opening ceremony Margaret reflected on the progress she had played such a significant part in:
“I felt very, very proud to be a part of such a huge movement. From a small beginning in the simple days to seeing what it had become with such large teams has been a marvellous feeling.”
Nick Webborn OBE, Chair of the British Paralympic Association, said: “”We mourn today the loss of one of Great Britain’s legends in Paralympic sport with the passing of Margaret Maughan.
“Margaret was the first ever Gold medallist for Great Britain in archery during the first Games in Rome in 1960. She competed until 1980 and later lit the Paralympic flame at the London 2012 Games.
Margaret, we thank you and salute you for all that you did.
“Although her passing is extremely sad the fact that she lived until the age of 91 is testament to the work of Sir Ludwig Guttman who transformed the care of people with spinal cord injury, and that through sport people with disabilities can enjoy rich and fulfilling lives.
“Margaret, we thank you and salute you for all that you did, and although we will miss you tremendously, we will never forget you.”
Caz Walton, is one of Great Britain’s most decorated Paralympians and was a close friend of Margaret.
She said: “ Margaret was one of those people that always gave more than she took. She encouraged, fought and spoke fearlessly for disability sport and equality rights.
Many of us owe her so much and would not have had a career in sport had it not been for her.
“Many of us owe her so much and would not have had a career in sport had it not been for her. Above all I will remember her courage, humour and modesty. It’s a well worn phrase but the world truly is a poorer place without her.”
Martin McElhatton OBE, Chief Executive of Wheelpower, said: “Everyone within the Paralympic Movement and all of Margaret’s friends at WheelPower – British Wheelchair Sport and Stoke Mandeville mourn her passing and we send our sincere condolences to Margaret’s family and friends.
Margaret was a shining light and a wonderful example to other disabled people of how to live a full and active life after a spinal cord injury. Margaret’s sparkling personality and verve meant she was unique and special to so many people.
Joint the ParalympicsGB movement
The ParalympicsGB movement