09 August 2008

Paralympian prepares for fourth Games

PARALYMPIAN Stephen Payton is hoping to complete a quartet of success at this year's games in Beijing.
The athlete will be running in his fourth and final Paralympics next month.

Despite this competition being his last, Mr Payton aims to equal his personal best for the 400m.

The 31-year-old, from Westoe Crown Village, South Shields, works as a sports therapy technician at the University of Teesside.

He was born with minimal cerebral palsy, the least affected category of the condition's seven levels.

Originally from Livingston, Scotland, he started running at the age of 11, and became involved in disability sports five years later after a chance meeting with Pete Wyman, a national Scottish coach.

Since 1994 he has competed for the UK, running in both the 200m and 400m.

He has clinched a 400m gold medal at Atlanta in 1996, a silver in Sydney 2000 and bronze at the last games in Athens four years ago.

His week includes 30 hours training at Gateshead International Stadium, Gypsies Green Stadium in South Shields, the University's gym and runs on South Shields beach.

Mr Payton said: "I'm looking forward to the Paralympics as a whole.

"It's a fantastic experience to be in this very unique competition.

"I feel confident that I can catch up to my personal best of 51.3 seconds for the 400m in Sydney.

"The medal I'm most proud of is the bronze in Athens, as I'd fractured my right ankle nine months before."

Before flying to Beijing, Mr Payton aims to use the Environmental Chamber in the University's Olympia Building.

This simulates extreme temperatures for athletes to prepare them for competing in different climates.

He said: "I'll also be watching the Olympics this month. I want to see what's happening and how the athletes are coping with the smog and humidity."

Mr Payton will fly to Manuca, a Portuguese enclave on mainland China, at the end of the month and then travels to Beijing on September 5 to prepare for the qualifying rounds.

He added: "I'll still be involved in sport at some level but my immediate needs are my wife Silvia and our child, whose birth is due any time.

"And I won't miss fitting my life and work around my training schedule!"

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