sundaylife

| 13.7°C Belfast

'I don't do pity, I'm one of the luckiest men alive': Meet Scott Cromie, the inspirational Northern Ireland boccia champ upending the stereotypes around disability


Close

Scott Cromie in action

Scott Cromie in action

Scott Cromie with his medal

Scott Cromie with his medal

Scott lets fly

Scott lets fly

Scott Cromie

Scott Cromie

Nick Scott Photography

Scott Cromie in action

MEET Northern Ireland's great unsung sports hero who is defying the odds with his wheels of steel.

Scott Cromie (32) hasn't been able to walk unassisted from birth. Yet the Dromore native can boast a collection of Irish medals and a vigour for life that most would envy.

Far from letting his disability restrict his ambitions, Scott tells a story of empowerment, achievement and overcoming all the odds.

And he told Sunday Life: "I don't feel like a victim. I'm truly one of the luckiest men alive.

"I'm unbeatable. I don't stage a pity party. There's nobody in my life who pities me ever in my 32 years. I don't do pity.

"I can honestly say the secret of my success is that I've been surrounded by family and friends my whole life who told me I could achieve anything.

Close

Scott Cromie with his medal

Scott Cromie with his medal

Scott Cromie with his medal

"My mantra is: 'You can walk but I have an able-bodied attitude'. I've always been a positive person; I've never been treated like a poor disabled boy.

"Yes, there have been dark times I'm sure, but I can barely recall them.

"Yes, I've had sad moments, but I bounce back and get over it. My close circle has never once looked on me as someone at a disadvantage. There's never been a conversation about adversity, instead they've always celebrated what I can do and achieve.

"To be honest I have had friends in a similar position who have lived a sheltered life but the way I was brought up was that nobody has ever treated me like 'the poor wee disabled boy'. Not even my family. Even with a disability like mine there is life out there, you can't get stuck in your own rut.

Close

Scott lets fly

Scott lets fly

Scott lets fly

"It's a rite of passage to go to the bar with your friend or become a champion of sport and slog your guts out. And I took that choice.

"I'm very competitive. If I lose everyone knows to stay clear of me for 15 minutes. I don't like losing."

Scott (below) has been able at excel and pursue his sporting dreams with the help of leading Northern Ireland disability charity Leonard Cheshire where he is a live-in resident at their Meadows service.

Scott, a Man United fanatic and avid Rugby fan, found his sporting prowess in Boccia - a Paralympic sport that can be played by anyone, with or without a disability. It is a co-ed sport of control and accuracy, similar to curling or lawn bowling. Games last four or six ends. Players propel balls towards the target or 'jack' ball.

He quickly stood out in the skilled sport and prepares for his matches like a top athlete, hitting the gym and putting in endless hours of practice. He's the current Northern Ireland champion and is a top five player in the UK who has won an army of admirers in the sport.

Close

Scott Cromie

Scott Cromie

Nick Scott Photography

Scott Cromie

His wins have been helped by Leonard Cheshire's Actually I Can campaign. The charity's programmes help disabled people to be the best they can be.

Scott explained: "I was disabled from birth physically. I developed cerebral palsy which affects all four limbs and basically, I couldn't walk when I was younger - I used to roll everywhere.

"I was a baby when I got a series of operations. Those operations on my hamstrings gave me the ability to walk on crutches but most of the time now I mainly use a wheelchair.

"I'm not as regularly on my feet as I used to be when I was younger. I still am on my crutches and my walker and if I need to go to a friend's house I can still walk there.

"So, while I can still do short to medium distance, I can't do really long walks.

"My main source of mobility is an electric wheelchair."

Not just content with his sporting achievements, Scott has become a pivotal figure in his Leonard Cheshire service and empowers other users who are suffering from disability.

His service manager Anita Scullion sings his praises and says Scott is truly something special.

"Far from just getting by, Scott is very much engaged with the running of the service, he gives his views and opinions on how the service should be run in order to maintain an independent model. Scott is a prime example of how supported living works for people with disabilities," she explained.

"Scott is very much involved with the local council, taking part in Boccia, completes in the Northern Ireland team - he practises and trains like a pro.

"He has a fantastic family support network which enables him to give his all to his sports, he is a football and rugby fanatic, and this is evident when you meet him.

"Scott has an infectious personality which shines through and is demonstrated when he is chatting to the staff or volunteers. He loves his 'man cave' at The Meadows and when lockdown is eased further, he'll be spending his Saturdays entertaining his family and friends with sports days at his home. He's incredible and totally rewrites the stereotypical view of a disabled person."

Despite this, Scott admits it's not always plain sailing.

And that's where Leonard Cheshire have played a vital role in propelling him to more success.

Scott continued: "I'm a very confident outgoing person but there are times when I've lacked the confidence to actually go out on my own in the past.

"I guess at a period I didn't think I was mentally strong enough to take such a massive leap to independence.

"I have difficulties with understanding money and some learning difficulties and that's getting better thanks to the support I'm getting from Leonard Cheshire. It's been the icing on the cake for helping me fulfil my full potential.

"With the support of the staff at Leonard Cheshire, I've found independence and confidence to really live my own life with the support of the staff. They are truly a team of angels who have transformed my life.

"They are a life force and they give me peace of mind.

"To know all I have to do is hit a button to have help takes so much strain away and allows me to focus on enjoying my life.

"I don't know how I got so lucky - I have the best parents, the best family, the best friends and a team of heroes at Leonard Cheshire."

÷ To find out more about Leonard Cheshire's Actually I Can initiative, or to donate, please visit Leonardcheshire.org.

Sunday Life