From Boy Scout to Paralympic Hero

Shaun Burrows was a boy scout earning his badges when he stumbled upon his natural talent for sprinting – a little over a decade later, he competed at the Paralympic Games.

Shaun, from Stoke-on-Trent, has cerebral palsy and competes in the T38 classification at 100m and 400m. The 25-year-old, born on Christmas day, did not take sprinting seriously until reaching the age of 13.

He had first discovered a knack for sprinting when earning his athletics badge as a boy scout, impressing his instructors who could see that the young Shaun had a special talent.

“[The scouts] told my mum and dad that I should get to a club because I was so quick!” Shaun told Fen Regis Trophies.

“It was a while after that that I started taking it seriously. I did it for fun first.”

North Staffordshire Special Olympics

It would be some time after collecting scout badges that Shaun would turn to decide to take sprinting more seriously. Aged 13, he joined the North Staffordshire Special Olympics group and was given the opportunity to develop and progress his raw natural talent.

Special Olympics GB is a non-profit organisation that aims to provide training and athletic competition for children and adults of all abilities with intellectual disabilities, also known as learning disabilities, which Shaun has alongside cerebral palsy.

“I met with the Special Olympics group at Northwood Stadium on Monday nights,” he said. “I took part in different competitions and got better and better.”

Shaun’s Inspiration

By the time of the 2012 Paralympic Games in London, Shaun was well on his way to pursuing his dream of one day representing Great Britain on the biggest stage. He explained how watching T42 200m gold medallist Richard Whitehead “amazed” him.

“I watched the 2012 Paralympic Games on TV and saw Richard Whitehead running,” said Shaun. “I was amazed as he had no legs, and he was running on the track.

“Me and my dad were also given some tickets to go and watch him competing, and that was a big inspiration to me.”

From Boy Scout to Paralympian

Realising a Dream

Having watched Whitehead competing at the 2012 Games, Shaun would eventually call him his teammate with both para-athletes selected to represent Great Britain in Tokyo at the Covid-delayed 2020 Games. Though Shaun, like his role model, favours the 200m event the was no 200m sprint in his classification.

Shaun competed in the T38 400m event in Tokyo and reached the final after placing second in his heat with a time of 53:72. Though there were no fans in attendance, and Shaun’s friends and family had to cheer him on from home, it did not take any of the magic away from the spectacle of the Paralympic Games for the sprinter.

“We are used to having no crowds,” Shaun exclaimed. “Mostly it is your friends that watch. It was an amazing experience just to be there.”

Though the Paralympics in Tokyo may not have had any crowds, that certainly wasn’t the case at the 2022 Commonwealth Games hosted in Birmingham. It was the first major multi-sport event to have more events for women than men, while also integrating a para-sport programme.

That helped to ensure that para-athletes, such as Shaun, were given the opportunity to perform in front of a packed stadium.

“It was a big, huge surprise,” Shaun said of competing in front of thousands of fans. “It was a great new experience for me, too, with a home crowd and a full stadium cheering you on.”

He added: “It’s good to have a mix of events with both sets of athletes together at the same time…you feel like you are part of the actual team.”

Though Shaun is a big fan of both sets of athletes competing at the Commonwealth Games, he is clear that the Paralympic and Olympic Games should remain separate events.

“The Paralympic Games should remain as an event by itself,” Shaun said confidently.

Shaun’s sights are now firmly set on the 2024 Paralympic Games in Paris, with the aim of going one step further than he did in Tokyo and coming away with a medal.

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