Wales

Paralympics GB archer Dave Phillips' road to Rio

Dave Phillips Image copyright Archery GB
Image caption Dave Phillips now trains in Cwmbran with the same archery club he belonged to as a teenager

Four years ago he was watching the Olympics from his couch.

Diagnosed with multiple sclerosis, Dave Phillips, 50, from Cwmbran, south Wales, had been signed off work sick.

He was given early retirement from Tata Steel later that year, and was left depressed and feeling cut off from the world.

So his wife Angie suggested he return to archery in 2013 and now he is in Rio to compete for Paralympics GB. He begins his bid for gold on Sunday.

He competed in archery in his late teens, but had to stop because of work and family commitments.

"I was ranked fifth in Britain, but I gave it up for 30 years," said Mr Phillips.

"I was still working when the 2012 Olympics were taking place, but wasn't very well at that time, so I was ending my career. At 46 I retired.

"I was suffering from a little bit of mild depression. I had lost all contacts on a day to day basis and Angie was still out of the house on a daily basis as she was in full-time employment.

"In the end she suggested I try going back to archery. I did it because I wanted to be healthy, I didn't want to be in a wheelchair, and also for the social aspects."

Mr Phillips managed to borrow some equipment from a friend he still knew from Llantarnam Archery Club in Cwmbran.

Image copyright Torfaen council
Image caption Mr Phillips and his wife Angie foster two teenage girls and have two sons of their own

But his return to the sport was almost stopped early on.

"All the equipment was stolen from my car," said Mr Phillips.

"My wife, Angie, worked with the police to catch the culprit who they found trying to sell the kit.

"Thankfully, I got it back two days before my selection to shoot in the Czech Republic in 2013."

Mr Phillips went on to win that competition.

"If they hadn't recovered the equipment that would have ended my career as an archer, as I wouldn't have been able to replace the £2,000 worth of equipment that I had borrowed," he said.

The former team leader, who fosters two teenage girls with his wife, was singled out for an intensive training programme by GB Archery.

He spent three days a week at their base in Lilleshall, Shropshire, but in 2015 had to drop out because of his condition.

"I couldn't commit to the programme any longer as they wanted me to be training in Shropshire every week, and my condition was fatiguing me," said Mr Phillips.

"I would be there from Tuesday to Thursday and then wiped out for the rest of the week and weekend.

Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption Pippa Britton, who competed in the 2012 Paralympic Games, has helped Mr Phillips

"For me to be able to perform it was all about being able to manage my fatigue."

Paralympic archer Pippa Britton, who trains at the same archery club, offered to help him.

"Having Pippa helping me was great, being disabled herself and suffering from a similar kind of fatigue she understands what I need and might not need.

"It was important to have someone with that understanding for me to move forward. Sometimes able-bodied people don't grasp what is going on with a condition like mine."

He said: "Disability Sport Wales took me under their wing and gave me access to a psychologist and physiotherapist, and it led to my training being more athlete-led, which worked for me."

Image copyright Archery GB
Image caption Mr Phillips is also number one in the overall Welsh archery rankings

"I am now really fit. I have lost a lot of weight and am feeling fantastic."

With the extra support, Mr Phillips is now back on the GB Archery training programme and is also on a mixed team with fellow archer Tania Nadarajah. He is currently number one in the Welsh archery rankings.

After winning European gold in 2014, he was bought equipment by charity the Fletchers Society, and was recently given a bespoke shooting stool by Disability Sports Wales.

He said: "The stool could make the difference to me winning a gold medal or not. It is a bespoke stool which is a fantastic bit of kit."

Having been selected for Paralympics GB in the recurve event, Mr Phillips is looking forward to competing in Rio.

He said: "I have got a very good chance of medalling. I am ranked 10th in the Paralympic world rankings, but I just want to keep calm and enjoy it.

"Being my first games the atmosphere will be intense. It has been a hell of a journey.

"I never ever went back to archery to be this good, I came back for my health and well-being but it has taken me on a new road.

"It is only thanks to the support of family and volunteers that I have made it to the archery field, as they do everything for me like carrying my kit and helping me physically get there."

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