Borders disability sport received a boost last Friday night when para-badminton star Alan Oliver was named the Club Sport Ettrick and Lauderdale Sports Personality of the Year.
The 27-year-old, originally from Alloa, currently works as the region’s disability sports officer and has cerebral palsy which affects his right side.
Since switching from able-bodied to disability sport at the age of 19, Oliver has played football for Scotland at the Cerebal Palsy World Cup, as well as smashing his way to the top of the world rankings in badminton.
Speaking in front of a packed audience at Gala RFC’s Netherdale clubrooms on Friday night, Oliver said: “Believe it or not, I have never been recognised for any of my achievements throughout my sporting career.
“I think this is because previously para-badminton was a development sport and didn’t have Paralympic recognition, but hopefully that will change now as two weeks ago it was given Paralympic status and will now be included in the 2020 Games.”
Oliver began playing badminton at the age of five and throughout his childhood attended coaching sessions and played for both primary and secondary school teams.
Throughout his high school years he participated in a number of sports at a high level, including skiing, basketball and hockey.
It wasn’t until he was 19, however, that Oliver finally accepted he had a disability. He attended a speech programme which focused on being honest with oneself. In 2008 he was selected to attend the European Para-Badminton Championships in Germany. There was only one wheelchair player and one coach in the travelling party and Oliver, who had not received any proper coaching since first year at high school, admits it was a “massive learning curve” both for himself and Badminton Scotland. He came away with a bronze medal and has since been to three World Championships and won a European gold medal, as well as picking up many other open titles, both at home and abroad, along the way. He is currently world number four and was world number one in September 2013.
z For a full report on the Club Sport Ettrick and Lauderdale Awards, go to page 73.