Interview with Ben Rowlings
We stole Team GB Paralympian Ben Rowlings away from our kitchen to quiz him a bit on his career. In 2012 Ben decided to give Wheelchair racing a go, and four years later found himself on the starting line at the Paralympics in Rio...
What inspired you to get into wheelchair racing?
"I’ve always been a sporty guy, I was born with Cerebral Palsy, so basically that means my brain was damaged at birth & it doesn’t send signals to my legs properly. So I can’t run, I can’t jump... I can walk short distances, but very up on my tiptoes… kind of like a penguin [laughs]. As a normal kid growing up I wanted to play football & rugby, my mates used to stick me in goal because if I fell over there was a chance I might save something [laughs]. So tried loads of sports… tried athletics for the first time in 2012… and 4 years later I was competing in Rio".
Do you follow a specific diet plan?
"Not really, I just have everything in moderation. I am a big believer that if you are craving something then have it, otherwise it’s just going to get worse & worse. I don’t weigh out certain portions or amounts, I don’t get paranoid about it. If I’m hungry I’ll eat".
What sort of snacks do you go in for?
"After training or a race I always have chocolate milk. It was something I was introduced to a couple of years ago, as it has the right amount of protein & carbs".
How did it feel when you knew you’d been selected for the Rio squad?
"I cried, and that’s the only time I’ll admit it [laughs]. What happens when you get selected…they give you a day, and you have to wait by the phone all day and [I'd heard] nothing until about 4/5 o’clock, by which time I had to go to training. I took my phone with me & tucked it between my legs & my chair, so if it went off I’d have a chance to reach it. Just as I finished training, still on the track in the feeezing cold, I got the call and started crying. When I got home I didn’t tell my mum as I wanted to surprise her, but as soon as I walked through the door she could tell by the look on my face… It was only when I was on the plane to Rio that it really sank in".
Has the public perception changed much in recent years towards disability sport?
"Massively, [London] 2012 played a huge role in that. With people seeing disability sport more an actual sport, rather than just, if you come down everyone gets a medal… people started to see us as proper athletes. I think we’re on more of a level playfield [as able bodied athletes], it’s not quite completely level yet, but with 2012 & the reception it got, and even 2016 – the reception we got when we returned was overwhelming. There is still a long way to go, but it is a lot better than it was".