First British Paralympic Champion Margaret Maughan Dies 60 Years After Backstroke Gold

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Photo Courtesy: ParalympicsGB

The first British Paralympic gold medallist, Margaret Maughan, has died aged 91 after a career that spanned five Games and 20 years.

Maughan’s status as a pioneer and a tireless advocate for sport for the disabled led to her being invited to light the flame at the London Paralympic Games in 2012.

Maughan won her country’s first title in archery at the 1960 Paralympics in Rome, Italy.

She also took gold in the pool in the Eternal City when she won the women’s 50m backstroke complete class five.

The sole entrant in the race, Maughan claimed her second trip to the podium in 1min 49.2secs.

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Photo Courtesy: ParalympicsGB

Maughan was paralysed from the waist down in a road accident in Malawi in 1959.

She returned to Britain and was treated at the National Spinal Injuries Centre at Stoke Mandeville Hospital by Dr Ludwig Guttmann who pioneered the use of sport in therapy and is acknowledged as the founder of the Paralympic Games.

During her rehabilitation Margaret took up archery and joined a club which led to her competing in Rome 60 years ago.

Maughan scored 484 points in the women’s Columbia round open to win Britain’s first gold but a mix-up in the scoring meant she was only informed she had won when she was about to leave the venue on the team bus.

In a press release from Paralympics GB, Maughan recalled:

“Someone came on the bus and shouted: ‘where’s Margaret Maughan?’ They had to lift me off, find my wheelchair and take me over to a very nice little podium.

“I didn’t realise I was in the middle until I got there and received a gold medal – it was in a very nice little leather box.

“I got back on the coach again and nobody said well done or anything because nobody realised what had gone on. It was only later I discovered I had won the first medal!”

Maughan competed at the 1960, 1968, 1972, 1976 and 1980 Paralympic Games and represented Britain in archery, swimming, dartchery and bowls.

After lighting the cauldron at London in 2012, she expressed her pride in the progress of Paralympic sport.

“I felt very, very proud to be a part of such a huge movement.

“From a small beginning in the simple days to seeing what it had become with such large teams has been a marvellous feeling.”

British Para-Swimming National Performance Director Chris Furber, said:

“On behalf of British Para-Swimming we are deeply saddened to hear of the passing of Margaret Maughan. She was a huge inspiration and helped to pave the way for what the Paralympic movement has now become.

“Watching her light the cauldron in London was an incredible moment and she will be sorely missed by everyone involved in para sport.”

Nick Webborn OBE, Chair of the British Paralympic Association, said:

“We mourn today the loss of one of Great Britain’s legends in Paralympic sport with the passing of Margaret Maughan.

“Although her passing is extremely sad the fact that she lived until the age of 91 is testament to the work of Sir Ludwig Guttman who transformed the care of people with spinal cord injury, and that through sport people with disabilities can enjoy rich and fulfilling lives.

“Margaret, we thank you and salute you for all that you did, and although we will miss you tremendously, we will never forget you.”

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1 comment

  1. Karien Kirkness

    Very sad to hear that. I had the privilege of interviewing Margaret for the official London 2012 Paralympic magazines and it was honestly one of the highlights of my career – a truly incredible woman.

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