Greaves Out to Change Paralympic Perceptions in London

In the lead-up to London 2012, the British discus thrower has been breaking world records and setting new standards every competition. 12 Aug 2011 By IPC

“We’ve really pushed the sport and taken the world record way beyond what it used to be.”

Editor’s note: This is Part 6 of an eight-part series featuring some of the top competitors in Athletics as we approach the one-year mark to the London 2012 Paralympic Games.

Dan Greaves throws metal bars, chains and chairs on a daily basis.

Or at least six days a week, he does.

He leaves Day 7 for relaxation and spending time with his girlfriend.

As the reigning world champion in the F44 discus event, Greaves is enduring various types of training sessions for his third Paralympic Games in London next summer.

“We’re an all-around athlete, really,” the Brit said of those in his discipline.

“Discus throwers need to be fast, need to be strong, need to be agile, need to be flexible, and then kind of combine that all with throwing and orientation skills to throw the discus with such high speeds and such high power and actually stay in a small circle. You want to try to throw it as far as you can, but you’ve actually got kind of a limited room to do so.”

And for Greaves, who was born with a foot deformity, there is even more to it.

He said he has to slightly change his throwing technique because of his physical disability. Whereas an able-bodied competitor pushes off his toes, Greaves has to push off his heel because he is not able to point his toes. He must turn his body all the way around on just his heels.

At January’s 2011 International Paralympic Committee (IPC) World Championships in Christchurch, New Zealand, Greaves competed against single below-the-knee amputee athletes and other athletes with impairments equivalent to them.

He came away with a gold medal and a new world-record throw of 58.98m.

Since then, he has bettered that world record twice. On 27 May, he threw a distance of 59.27m at the BT Paralympic World Cup in Manchester, Great Britain. He then threw 59.58m at the U.S. Paralympic Track and Field Championships in Florida on 20 June, setting an unofficial new world record.

Prior to the 2008 Paralympic Games, Greaves was hoping to eventually compete in both the Olympic and Paralympic Games by 2012, but after placing third in Beijing, he decided to put it off.

“That dream kind of died a bit after Beijing after coming in third, so we kind of just really focused on dominating the Paralympic world and then putting the Olympics on the backburner,” Greaves said.

The 28-year-old is now training six days a week alongside able-bodied athletes and he is also receiving funding from UK Sport.

Greaves recently faced able-bodied athletes in a London Diamond League competition and wants to enter into more able-bodied competitions in the future.

But for now, his focus is on the Paralympic Games, where his main opposition is likely to be the USA’s Jeremy Campbell and Denmark’s Jackie Christiansen.

Greaves already has Paralympic gold in his pocket from the Athens 2004 Games, where he threw a distance of 55.12m, but the level of competition has increased dramatically since then.

“We’ve really pushed the sport and taken the world record way beyond what it used to be,” Greaves said.

“Athens training was fun and there wasn’t really too much pressure. Now, this is a business and this is a high level of elite sport, and medals can be whipped away from you at any opportunity.”

With his home crowd backing him in London and his father – a former javelin thrower – in the stands, Greaves feels that he can truly turn some heads and change perceptions of Paralympic Sport.

“In Beijing it was actually kind of scary that there were 80,000 people cheering not only for yourself, but more for the Chinese people,” Greaves said.

“It will be really nice knowing the support that you can hear (in London) will actually be for yourself.”