Well-known racer John turns to curling


WHEELCHAIR racing legend John Hunter has put the brakes on his athletics career and turned to curling instead, writes Fiona Scott.

And the public-spirited sportsman has made one last gesture to the group he has been part of for the last 10 years.

For the 62-year-old has donated his racing chair to the Borders Disability Sports Group to enable further generations to enjoy the sport he came to love.

He told TheSouthern: “It was a bit like saying goodbye to an old friend, but I’ve had my turn on it and I felt it was time to give some youngsters the opportunity to try the sport.

John, a former mill supervisor, was struck down by cerebellar ataxia in 1994, eventually forcing him to hang up his running shoes.

The crippling disease destroys muscle coordination, affects speech and prevents writing. It can also distort hearing and sight. The man who loved to run could run no more, and in 2002 he was confined to a wheelchair.

After much persuasion by his clubmates at Gala Harriers, however, the Selkirk father returned to the track and pushed himself towards returning to competitive athletics. His customised racing chair was purchased with the help of Harriers members.

John progressed to become a Scottish wheelchair athletics champion in the 100m and 200m and in 2004 became the first winner of the now annual Scottish wheelchair 10K race held in on the last Sunday in October, ably organised by Jed Renilson.

John added: “I have met some great people through my racing and hopefully people will go along and try the chair and it will encourage them to take up sport and keep active.”

Last week Scottish Borders disability sports group chairman David Laing accepted the generous gift from John.

He told us: “John is no longer able to race but you cannot keep this determined man down as he is now a very active member of the Wheelchair Curling Group at Kelso Ice Rink.

“Although John can no longer drive and has also relinquished his chairmanship of the Borders Disability Forum, he remains as a committee member and travels to most meetings by bus, which just proves his determination and commitment to our cause.

“The racing chair is a huge asset to the group and is in excellent working order.”

Arrangements for use of the chair can be made through David Laing at 01573 224202 or email davidlaing@tiscali.co.uk

There is no charge for use of the chair but any voluntary donations to the group would be quite acceptable.