McCann’s quit fear

Paralympian Craig McCann
Paralympian Craig McCann

HE represented his nation on one of the biggest stages in last year’s London Paralympics, yet Craig McCann was left so financially hurt funding his Team GB dream that he has since questioned whether to quit wheelchair fencing altogether.

An appeal to UK Sport to rethink its £8.5m cut has just seen wheelchair fencing and basketball win a one-year funding reprieve.

However, although that cash boost gives some reassurance, McCann remains in the dark about how much they will receive and wonders how far it will stretch to fund his team’s 2016 Paralympics Rio dream as well as his future in the sport.

“I almost had to call it a day altogether,” said the 29-year-old.

“I wouldn’t have been able to train at the level needed for the Paralympics, Rio would’ve been a no-go.

“You only get that type of opportunity once every four years and with me being at the back end of my twenties, there wouldn’t have been another chance.

“I loved being a part of London, it was tough and financially difficult but I’ll never forget it.”

As well as the 12 months of funding, which McCann said could help pay for equipment and even tracksuits, the remaining three years will be dependent on strict performance criteria - something the Doncaster star believes will help Team GB.

“We’ve no option but to up our game to meet the targets. I think it will be a blessing in disguise, it’ll be the added boost for us to improve.”

Having debuted in last year’s Games, McCann’s meteoric rise is a rather remarkable one.

London 2012 marked nearly ten years since being diagnosed with a brain tumour found during an RAF medical back in 2004.

His 18-hour surgery left him with nerve damage, limb weakness and problems with his hearing and sight which led to extensive rehabilitation in order to rebuild his life.

During this time, McCann discovered a love for sport while studying at Hull University and in Guildford.

McCann then attended a Paralympics Potential Day run by Team GB and despite his passion for rowing, it was the wheelchair fencing team who claimed their national star.

His natural ability, which has seen him clinch numerous medals including two bronze in the 2011 British Disabled Fencing Association National Championships, saw McCann selected for the 2012 seven-strong side.

Competing in the men’s Team Foil, they lost their classification match to Hungary and were drawn in the quarter finals against the highest ranked side Hong Kong.

Unable to topple the sport’s powerhouses despite making credible progress in wheelchair fencing, the British team finished eighth.

“London was an incredible experience, it was tough but was also fun. We’d trained non-stop for years to get to that level needed and it felt good to be a part of it,” said McCann.

“As a country I thought we could have done a lot better. We need to improve on it in the future and hopefully that will come together in 2016.

“It was the first Games I’d experienced and will definitely stay with me.”

He added: “I’ll be 32-years-old for Rio so it will be a different experience to London but I can use 2012 to look back on and improve upon.”

Despite living and training in Milton Keynes, McCann regularly returns to see family in Bessacarr as well as Worksop. He has also started training at the Keepmoat Stadium.

“I try to get back to Doncaster as much as I can. Everyone has been really supportive. It’s my hometown, I’m proud of where I come from. The set-up at the Keepmoat is a massive help too,” he said.

McCann, a qualified fitness instructor who is on the staff books at The Dome, is also training to become a lawyer.

Both he and partner Gemma Collis, another British wheelchair fencer, have also been selected for the Sky Sports Living for Sport programme to mentor schoolchildren.