THE Paralympic sport of wheelchair rugby is commonly known as ‘murderball’ – and although that name isn’t to be taken literally, St Annes player Myles Pearson is deadly serious about winning a medal at London 2012.
Pearson is one of the Fylde coast’s four representatives at the Paralympics which begin tomorrow – alongside athlete Shelly Woods and fencers David Heaton and Justine Moore – and is the youngest member of Team GB’s wheelchair rugby team at the age of 19.
Myles, who lives on Lightburne Avenue, moved into the Olympic Village with his team-mates yesterday and is convinced they can defy their world ranking of fifth to claim a medal next week.
Indeed, the former St Bede’s Catholic School pupil is convinced home advantage makes them favourites.
Pearson, who hadn’t even played the game when the last Paralympics were taking place in 2008, said: “With the home support we should get that extra edge. I’d say we have to be favourites. None of the other teams see us like that but they won’t be expecting what London is going to give us.
“We’re definitely looking for a medal. We’d love it to be gold but we’ll see what happens. We’ve run the USA and Australia close recently and they are the top two in the world, so we know we can beat the best.”
The team’s medal quest starts against the Americans a week tomorrow, followed by group matches against France and Japan.
Should Myles’ men qualify for the semi-finals and ultimately the final, ti would mean a gruelling schedule of five matches in successive days.
But Pearson is convinced they are up to the task after an intense two-month training regime in Norfolk applied the finishing touches to a long preparation programme for this dedicated sportman, who celebrated his 18th birthday on a GB training camp in Florida.
He was born with a condition known as arthrogryposis, which affects the joints, and played wheelchair tennis before switching to this more extreme sport three years ago.
He recalled: “I was 15 when I found out about wheelchair rugby, I found out there was a club in Southport which I wanted to join (Southport Crash, the club Myles still plays for).
“I was going through a tough patch at school because I was getting bullied, and at that age what you need is a good fight sometimes.
“Wheelchair rugby is for complete nutters. It’s crazy.
“I can still remember the first hit – I just thought, ‘What on Earth am I doing here?’ but I absolutely love it.
“To be selected for the Games is just amazing. I can’t quite believe this has all happened so fast. Four years ago, when Beijing were on, I wasn’t even playing rugby. I started a year later.”
That new beginning brought about a life-changing love for his brutal sport and Pearson can’t wait for the show to begin, though the Games will be a week old before his first match.
“Thinking about the crowd and how they will be gives me goosebumps,” he added.
“Times were tough for me and I never really imagined this would happen to me, but I’ve built up my confidence and my independence. Everything has changed about me in those last few years, so it really feels like the finishing product of that journey.”