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Chorley's Ballard battling to defy the odds at the Paralympics
1:16pm Thursday 30th August 2012 in Sport
GRAEME Ballard is going for gold against the odds at the London Paralympics - having considered quitting sprinting after devastating funding cuts four years ago.
The 33-year-old from Chorley is the current world record holder in the T36 100m and is also a contender in the T36 200m in London, despite receiving almost no help from the sport’s governing body since the Beijing Olympics.
Ballard, who has cerebral palsy and suffers from epilepsy, had his funding stopped by UK Athletics after he failed to medal at the 2008 Olympic Games.
The Chorley Athletic Club member had previously won bronze in the 200m at Athens in 2004 but, when he was unable to repeat his past successes, Ballard was unceremoniously dumped.
The sprinter has since been left training at Horwich RMI, without the sophisticated help he was granted with funding, but has refused to let that get in the way of his dreams.
Ballard was allowed to go on a funded week-long training camp in Portugal ahead of the Games but he admits the last four years have been tough to cope with.
He said: “It’s been really hard. That’s been the biggest thing to overcome. Just the simple things like getting a massage. They are vital.
“I was really hurt by that and I was thinking about packing it in.
“The summer training has really given me a huge lift.
“If it wasn’t for these guys (my parents) supporting me, I wouldn’t be anywhere. I’ve got to give a big thanks to my mum and dad. I’d love to win for them.”
Ballard enters Sunday’s 100m sprint with a real chance of coming home with gold, having set the world record at the Paralympic World Cup in Manchester in May.
Ballard beat the 12.15 seconds set by China's Wa Wai So in 2007 with a time of 11.98.
He then starts his campaign in his favoured 200m event on Thursday eyeing double glory, despite being a relative late starter to the sport.
Ballard, who was in a wheelchair until he was 10 and could barely walk, said: “I started the sport at the age of 20, that is quite late on.
“I actually did swimming, football and athletics. I chose which sport I wanted to do. It wasn’t really a hard decision to make, because if I had a bad day in football, it felt like I was letting the team down.
“In swimming, if I went out of the water, and out of it, and then back in, my muscles went really cold.
“I said ‘right, running was for me’. All you have to do is go down, put some clothes on and run.
“You’ve only got yourself to blame if you have a bad day at the office.
“I have tried 400m but it was never explained to me properly.”
There have been lots of times when Ballard could have thrown the towel in, as he battled the frustrations of funding himself.
But, with a home Olympic Games ahead, he is not ready to make any decisions on his future.
“If I did well at London and I got funding, I may decide to carry on for a little bit longer.” he said.
“I will have to see what happens and make a decision from there.”
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