HAVERHILL’S Caroline Maclean is hoping to scoop a prize even a EuroMillions lottery win could not buy when she begins her quest for a Paralympic gold medal.
The 37-year-old, from Camps Road, Haverhill, has had to take unpaid sabbatical from her job at St Edmundsbury Council to prepare and compete at London 2012.
And her dream of competing on home soil on the biggest stage of them all will finally be realised today when she takes to the court against the Netherlands at the 20,000-seater O2 Arena at 1pm.
“It’s pretty crazy,” she said. “I feel sick and nervous one minute and then excited the next.”
While some of the world’s top athletes are paid hundreds of thousands of pounds a week to play, Maclean is relying on a small amount of National Lottery funding and her life savings in a bid to fulfil her goal of winning a Paralympic gold medal.
“It’s pretty tough,” said the Eastern Blue Stars player. “I get a small amount of lottery funding, but that just about covers the petrol I use to get around the country.
“It’s worth taking the time off work because doing both was just getting too much and I wouldn’t have had enough holiday to be able to go on all the training camps.
“It was a case of take time off and go for it or not bother at all.”
The huge success of the Olympics reiterated to Maclean she made the correct decision and hopes Team GB’s women’s wheelchair basketball players can join those who raised their game to clinch a medal thanks to the terrific home support.
“I’ve never really watched much of the Olympics before, so it was great to watch the people who weren’t expecting to get a medal do so well,” said the two-time St Edmundsbury Sports Personality of the Year. “That has given me a bit of a boost.
“When I went to watch the women’s basketball final at the Olympics it seemed absolutely massive.
“It will be the biggest crowd we’ve played in front of – it’s going to be pretty crazy.”
London 2012 has been pencilled in as Maclean’s last tournament before retiring for a few years, but she admitted she could be convinced to carry on and perhaps even go on to compete in a fifth Paralympics at the age of 41 in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, in 2016.
“I keep saying it is probably my final tournament, but our coach Garry Peel keeps telling me I’m not allowed to retire,” she said. “To stay another four years would be pretty tough, but I haven’t made up my mind about what I’m going to do.
“I’m going to see how I feel after London — I hope after London I will know what I want to do.”
Follow Maclean’s progress online via www.haverhillecho.co.uk/sport/london-2012