A group of Clayton-le-Moors Harriers runners have helped to boost the Paralympic dream of wheelchair athlete Anthony Gotts.
In 2005, Garry Wilkinson, Neil Worswick, Tyrone Morgan, John Roche, Paralympian Mark Brown, Pete Booth and Candice Heys all completed the Everest Marathon raising £40,000 mainly to help disabled athletes.
Recently they read about Anthony’s plight and have been only too pleased to financially help the former Rossendale Harrier.
Four years ago Anthony was an able-bodied athlete with his sights set on reaching the 2012 Olympic trials over 400m hurdles but a freak accident left him in a wheelchair.
Anthony, now 28, was representing Great Britain in 2007 in a multi-event in Finland, taking part in the long jump.
He ran quickly down the runway but left one leg behind at an angle on take off causing him to snap three muscles, tear another seven and suffer a badly broken pelvis. The injuries were compared to a motorcyclist coming around a bend too fast with their knee down and their leg being ripped backwards.
He landed in the sand pit with one leg behind the back of his head.
The injuries also caused a tumour in his leg which is still growing and he gradually lost use of his legs until, two years after the incident, he was basically confined to a wheelchair.
But he refound his passion for athletics and last year began training in his wheelchair at Rochdale Harriers.
The Rossendale Free Press printed his story as he broke into the top 10 in the UK in 400m and 800m with only limited training and races behind him.
"In a weird way I hope to fulfil my dreams by competing in the 2012 Paralympics in London," Anthony said.
And now, thanks to the Accrington running club’s help, he can try and do this.
Everest runner John Roche is only too happy to use funds to help Anthony’s progress;
He said: "We are so pleased to have found someone we can build a relationship with and watch them grow in their chosen sport.
"The funds were hard earned and it has always been a danger that giving small bites of support here and there would see the money eventually dwindle away without achieving our objective.
"Anthony has the fire burning in his eyes, he really wants to succeed."
Candice Heys, who has been in constant contact with Anthony, said: "Hopefully the funding from us will take out some of the stress from Anthony and make it more possible for him to succeed at his goal.
"Anthony has a big target and aiming high will hopefully bring him much happiness and achievement that he can be proud of along the way."
And Garry Wilkinson explained: "I think we can work with Anthony and bring the best out of him.
"I'm looking forward to watching him compete next season in Olympic year and we have definitely found a young man who’s willing to put the work in and our financial help will make a difference."
Anthony has already benefited from the financial boost in a number of ways.
He can now afford to drive and train with seven other wheelchair athletes at Stockport Harriers and he has membership at the Perform Centre in Rossendale where Sale rugby union team and Bury FC train.
He has been able to have new gloves, a heart rate monitor and compression tights bought for him to make life easier and he admits, he is now relishing the challenge ahead.
"It has changed my life completely," said Anthony, who lives in Helmshore.
"I never thought it would happen. I can get to training, my wheelchair is not falling to bits and I have picked up techniques at Stockport which have made me faster and given me a lot more hope.
"I train with Rochdale Harriers twice a week, which is the club which originally spurred me on, I go to Stockport when I can and coach Rick Hoskins there has been superb with me and I am at the Perform Centre three times a week."
Anthony is in the top ten in the UK – despite being a relative novice – at 800m and 100m and top 15 in 200m and 400m.
He is classed as a T54 athlete at the moment which is wheelchair athlete with normal upper body function.
However he is going to be classified again next year and could be put in the category T53 which is wheelchair athletes with problems in the lower body.
"If I was reclassified I’d be ranked third in every event I’ve tried – 100m to 800m – but I’m trying not to take too much notice of that. I don’t want to hope to be more disabled so if I am reclassified thats ok but I’m training and aiming towards competing as a T54."
It has been a hard road back for Anthony.
"There have been a lot of dark days but a lot of people have helped me get where I am today.
"Four years ago, I was able-bodied athlete training hard for the London Olympic trials and I could get round a track in 50 seconds flat. The first time I did it in a wheelchair in June 2010 it took me three and a half minutes and I cried, I wanted to give up.
"Now I can get around in 68 seconds which is massive for me.
"I have been working on my upper body and it’s a lot stronger now and the aim for next year is to get 16.1 seconds in the 100m – that would put me in sixth place in the UK in the T45 category.
"My best at the moment is 19 seconds but I have had my wheelchair adapted and been working on new techniques which have made me go faster already in training."
David Bell, at the Perform Centre, has been seeing Anthony for a couple of months and has watched him grow. He said: "Top athletes know that the strongest muscle in your body is between your ears. You have got to have the will, the drive, the determination and the desire and Anthony has that.
"In six weeks he has been with us he has boosted his strength a massive amount. He has done really well but he is so determined."
And coach at Stockport Harriers Rick Hoskins said: "Because Anthony has been an able-bodied athlete, he will go away and do training sessions I give him, he makes my job easier. I have given him structure and he enjoys training with other wheelchair athletes. They have all benefited and he been excellent.
"London may be too soon as he will only have one winter training session behind him but he has the determination to aim for 2016 in Rio De Janeiro and hopefully he can do that.
"He said to me that coming here has exceeded his expectations and, like the others, he is a joy to train. Realistically it’s about fun and fitness and if they achieve their Paralympic dreams it is a bonus – I hope they do."
Not that there aren’t still problems but Anthony is trying to stay positive and says his Paralympic dreams will keep him focused.
"I still have my dark days. There is probably once every two weeks I can’t get out of bed for at least a day. When you are an able-bodied athlete you can run through pain. In a wheelchair, if you try and work through it, it can keep you bedridden for months.
"The tumour in my leg is also growing. It was caused by the accident and they said to me it is like a mole, once you scratch it you make it worse and this accident caused it and it is getting bigger.
"It is not cancerous but it can’t be removed as I only have one adductor muscle and they would have to take that out which means I wouldn’t be able to use my crutches as much as my leg would drag behind.
"Because of the tumour my legs are also now going numb and have to be strapped into the wheelchair when training to stop them doing an Irish jig. The only good thing about them being numb is I can’t feel the pain."
And Anthony admits he is also facing a threat to his benefits.
"Before my accident I was a self-employed sports coach teaching in schools and I had begun a sports course at Loughborough University which I couldn’t carry on with because it involved a lot of physical activities.
"Since the accident I can’t work although I would love to.
"I am currently waiting to hear from the benefits agency as they have said they are looking at my benefits and I may be judged fit to work.
"The problem is one day every two weeks I will not be able to get out of bed, my legs don’t work so I can’t do anything too physical and I am on so much morphine to control the tumour and the pain that I only have short-term memory.
"If they found me a job I could do with all those factors, I would gladly do it. I have never been work-shy."
But he refuses to dwell on such things as his ambitions are keeping him going.
"I want to go to the English nationals and I am also going to take part in the Manchester 10k next year.
"I’m not sure I will make London because I will only have one winter training behind me but I will do my best.
"It rains all the time in England, so I will go for Rio in 2016 instead – I have got my heart set on the Paralympics."
And he jokes getting help from his once rival club has stuck in his throat just a little.
"I am getting called a traitor from a lot of Rossendale Harriers," he joked. "Competing for Rochdale Harriers, taking help from Clayton but I still have the stag tattooed on my leg."