“Sport is what drives me, it’s where I can be myself, it’s my escape from everyday life.”
When he was a toddler, doctors gave Cameron Radigan a 10% chance of survival.
He has spent the last 18 years taking that chance, and is the newest member of Great Britain’s Paralympic archery squad.
Aged two, Radigan was diagnosed with a cancerous tumour in his left calf muscle.
The tumour had only ever been found in the chest - meaning the procedure, described as ‘experimental’, was given little chance of success.
“You’ve got to grow up quick,” he says. “I grew up in a hospital, which makes you understand things that you shouldn’t when you’re that young.
“It’s given me this mentality that I might as well do what I want right now, because you don’t know how much time you have left. Live life, have fun, and don’t worry about the future.”
The treatment was successful, preserving Cameron’s life and limb, but his leg deteriorated as the years ticked by and he became increasingly reliant on the use of a wheelchair.
That deterioration was tough on a sporty child. Born in Ayr, football was his first love and then kickboxing, in which he competed and won a silver medal at national level, before archery took hold.
“Sport is what drives me, it’s where I can be myself, it’s my escape from everyday life,” he says.
“It’s where I feel equal to everyone else, whereas in day-to-day life, I can feel excluded.”
That feeling of exclusion was most acute at school, where provision for disability was extremely limited.
He reflects: “There were times when I couldn’t get in and out of my classrooms with a wheelchair.
“I didn’t do any sport at secondary school, because they didn’t have a sporting programme for kids who were in a wheelchair.
“I had to sit and watch or go to the library and do something else. Being young and having a disability can be tough.
“I developed a small group of close friends who knew everything to do with my condition, and they’ve been there for me for years.”
Radigan decided to have his leg amputated in 2018. 11 days later, he competed at the British National Championships in Scotland.
“I had to convince my surgeon and a consultant that I could shoot about a week after having my surgery,” he says.
“I wanted to do stuff that I shouldn’t have been able to do with my condition. I wanted to hop on one leg, I wanted to be able to ride a bike, and the doctors understood why I wanted to shoot that day.”
Having won the British Disability Championships title back-to-back in 2019 and 2021, Radigan was invited onto the GB programme.
Radigan is now one of over 1,000 elite athletes on UK Sport’s National Lottery-funded World Class Programme, allowing him to train full time, have access to the world’s best coaches and benefit from pioneering medical support – this is vital for his pathway to the Paris 2024 Games.
He made his international debut at the 2022 World Para Archery Championships in Dubai, winning silver with team-mate David Phillips in the new doubles team event.
It was his first time leaving the country and the first time he’d ever been on an aeroplane.
“Nobody knew who I was but I always felt included,” he says. “There wasn’t the level of pressure I thought there would be. I enjoyed the World Championships, and it just helped me get settled.”
With the Paris 2024 Paralympics only one year away, the Games are set to inspire people and communities all across the country. Radigan hopes that by sharing his story it will give others motivation to get involved in sport.
With a a busy year of competition ahead, Paris is still set very firmly in his sights.
“It’s always been my goal to go to the Paralympics. Quite early on I got into that mindset of wanting to be a Paralympic archer.”
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