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Claire Taggart: 'Appreciate the small things... the time I spend with people, I appreciate more'



Claire Taggart

Claire Taggart

Claire Taggart

We are asking our sporting personalities how they are dealing with action coming to a halt because of the coronavirus pandemic and how it has affected their daily lives.

Today, we speak to Claire Taggart, a boccia player who represented GB at the 2016 Rio Paralympics and has won multiple gold medals at British and European level. As well as her boccia exploits, she is also disability access officer for Danske Bank Premiership side Larne.

Q How are you keeping?

A: I have a rare disease affecting my brain causing me problems with my voice, arms and legs. Because it's so severe, they put our entire boccia team into lockdown before the government did. I'm not allowed to go to shops or anything, I have my mum and dad doing that for me. The furthest I go is walking around the block with my dog, Rio. The first two weeks were frustrating but then it was fine. Boccia have been very good in sending us training drills and quizzes and stuff like that. We don't have much time to think about sitting in the house all the time, which is good. The weather's been really good, so it's been nice to sit outside in the back garden.

Q How have you been affected?

A: Obviously the Tokyo Paralypmics are now rescheduled for 2021 and our entire competition season has been cancelled, postponed, whatever way you want to put it. Nothing is happening abroad this year. I'm meant to be in Canada right now at a competition, I was meant to be in Zagreb at the start of the month but that didn't happen, and all our local camps and competitions have been postponed or rescheduled for next year. Maybe by the end of this year things will start to get back to normal but, with our physical impairment, it might take a little bit longer for us to come back into normal civilisation.

Q How are you keeping fit?

A: We're trying to pursue as much normality as possible, so we still have a weekly schedule coming out. I'm throwing in the house, I've got about five metres of space in the hallway that I can practice in four days a week for about an hour, hour-and-a-half at a time. They've helped us get set up with home gym equipment and stuff like that. We do a hand bike session on a Tuesday, we all go on Skype, and then we've got other sessions on that as well and we have our home conditioning. We're doing lots of Skype meetings and video analysis, it keeps us really busy.

Q How are you maintaining morale, your own and the team's?

A: My social life is now better in quarantine than it was before in terms of what I do at night! On Wednesdays we have a quiz and then Friday night we compile a playlist and listen to that. During the week we put together a playlist with themes that starts on a Saturday. My iPad is permanently drained of battery because I'm on Skype calls all the time! We don't see what we're doing right now as trying to gain an advantage on anybody else, we're trying to maintain what we've achieved over the last five years and our physical ability.

Q Is there a book, film or box set you think stay at home sports fans might enjoy?

A: At the minute I'm waiting to start Tiger King on Netflix. I can't start it right now because any time my dog sees an advert for it she tries to eat the TV! I'm not really watching that much at the minute, I'm playing The Sims at the moment if that counts! I'm debating if I need a Nintendo Switch for Animal Crossing, that's my current situation.

Q What life lessons have you learned from this?

A: That I'm ready to kill my parents! They might be ready to kill me, actually! For me it's appreciating the small things I would have taken for granted, something like being able to get a takeaway, but now it takes 200 calls just to order from a chippy! Appreciate the small things. The time I spend with people, I appreciate more.

Q What's the first thing you will do when all this is over?

A: I am going to see my boyfriend, my friends and family and I'm going to go for a Nando's probably! It's just so good, it's one of those ones you can't replicate at home.

Q And your message to sports fans?

A: Be patient. The thing with sport is that it will come back eventually, and what we don't want is for it to come back prematurely and then people are going to matches and there's a second wave of this. Just be patient is the only thing I'd say. And try and be active at home.

That applies to people with a disability as well, who would have normally gone to boccia clubs or wheelchair basketball or whatever they're into. Disability Sport NI are doing videos with athletes who are in high performance programmes, like myself and James MacSorley, for advice on getting active. Give things a go!

Claire Taggart is funded through Sport NI National Lottery Funding and UK Sport. If anyone would like to try boccia, Claire would encourage them to contact Disability Sport NI about the Disability Sports Hubs in each council area, sponsored by Progressive Building Society.

Belfast Telegraph