The day that teenager Debbie Brennan first went to the Alexander Stadium, looking for a new challenge, just happened to be the day that the Paralympic team had gathered ready to fly out to the Atlanta Paralympics. Interviewed by BBC Shropshire some years later, she recollected that a bloke sat her in a racing chair, made her fall out of it, and said “You’re mine!…and by the way, I’m the Paralympic coach”
From then on she was in training, first for the Sydney in 2000 and then in Athens in 2004. She raced until a nasty accident in the 2007 London Marathon, and inspired countless other young people to take up sport along the way.
Debbie’s account of her pre-Athens training shows her dedication. “I’m in the gym twice a week, on the track once a week and on the road the rest of the week…. In the gym I’ve got bench press, I’ve got back extensions, lateral raises and dips. Then I’ve got strange medicine ball work, which is actually sit-ups, but because I can do sit-ups so easily they put the medicine ball in my hands and it works my back as well as my stomach”
Having cerebral palsy, she competed in T53 class at 100 and 200m. She won silver and gold In Sydney, and held the world record in the 200m until the following Paralympics in Athens, when she won bronze and silver. She also held the T34 1500m record for 10 years, before Mel Nicholls lowered it by 4 seconds to 4:12.56 in Italy in 2013.
After the Athens Paralympics she said: “I know that there are a lot of wheelchair athletes out there who think ‘I wish I was like Debbie Brennan.’ I’d say to them you can be, you’ve just got to find it.”
Debbie is still actively inspiring young athletes, helping to run a local club near her home in Telford. Visiting the Mobility show in Telford in 2013 she said “I loved my racing life and if I can pass on to young people even a tiny part of enthusiasm for the sport I will be delighted… keeping fit is so vital to the general wellbeing of everyone, especially people less able for whom it is not always easy.”