Belfast Telegraph

Rio Paralympics: Rugby ace David Ross sets sights on leading from front in Tokyo

Ambition: David Ross
Ambition: David Ross

By Charlie Bennett

Moira's David Ross may have narrowly missed out on a Team GB Paralympics place in Rio this month, but the wheelchair rugby star insists he is doing everything he can to ensure he doesn't feel the same pain in four years time.

The Ulster student made the initial list for Rio but failed to make the final cut after a training camp, and now has to bide his time as he bids to ensure he is on the plane to Tokyo in 2020.

Ross, who was paralysed after a rugby injury in February 2013, is regarded as one of the best young players in his sport and captained a Team GB development squad in Poland two months ago.

The 21-year-old admits nerves got the better of him as GB struggled, but insists they will be better in November's Rugbymania in Prague.

"It was my first time leading them out but unfortunately it was not our best tournament," the Co Down lad acknowledged. "We struggled a little bit but we learnt a lot and moved forward quite quickly.

"A lot of guys are coming through and we have a lot to learn but we got better as it went on and we know how to improve going forwards.

"It is definitely a learning experience. It was tough, probably tougher than I thought it was going to be.

"I think I let my personal frustrations affect my personal role as a captain so I think I need to learn from that, and I think I did as the tournament went on.

"I began to focus on what I should be doing to help the team instead of myself."

Ross is also part of the SSE Next Generation Programme, which gives support to 100 of the best up-and-coming young British and Irish athletes from a variety of sports on their way to the top.

And the young player, who has been glued to the Paralympics from home, insists he will take full advantage of any squad opening which arrives in the next four years as he looks to realise his ambition in 2020.

"I am always watching it. I know a lot of the guys competing so I am watching lots of different events and loving every minute," he said.

"Now I know where I need to get as I have to reach this level for Tokyo and, looking at the position I am in now, I would be disappointed if I did not make it.

"There are a few older guys in the squad who may want to settle down and have a family. The training we go through is very intense and brutal so people may not want to keep up and instead take a step back.

"I am working hard on and off court. I am getting fitter and stronger, making sure I am making lots of improvements all in order to get to Tokyo."

SSE's Next Generation programme partners with SportsAid to provide financial support and training to the sports stars of the future. Keep up to date with the latest on Twitter @SSENextGen.

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