Disability Sport Fife (DSF) celebrates its 40th anniversary

Fife Paralympians have been part of the history of Disability Sport Fife which marks its 40th anniversary this month.
Fife Paralympians have been part of the history of Disability Sport Fife which marks its 40th anniversary this month.

An organisation which has been leading the development of inclusive sport and active recreation for children, young people and adults with a disability across Fife is marking a special milestone.

Disability Sport Fife (DSF) is celebrating its 40th anniversary by acknowledging the organisation’s and its members’ many achievements over the last four decades.

DSF athletes, volunteers and coaches.

DSF athletes, volunteers and coaches.

Based at Michael Woods Sports and Leisure Centre in Glenrothes, DSF has gone from strength to strength since it was founded on December 5, 1977. Today, it has a well established events programme, offers regular education and training initiatives and provides 43 weekly sports sessions.

Members also have access to exceptional coaches, volunteers and peer mentors.

Richard Brickley, DSF president, explained how the organisation began.

He said: “The Scottish Sports Council (now Sportscotland) appointed a development officer to work with the Scottish Sports Association for Disabled People SSAD (now Scottish Disability Sport SDS) to produce a development plan for disability sport in Scotland.

Richard Brickley

Richard Brickley

“One of the key recommendations was the establishment of SSAD branches.

“Fife had already earned a national reputation for inclusive physical activity and sport with the opening of the Fife Institute of Physical and Recreational Education (FIPRE) in 1970.

“An open meeting was arranged with key agencies and representatives from Fife voluntary organisations concerned with sport and/or disabled people.

“There was great enthusiasm for the new Fife Sports Association for Disabled People FSAD (now Disability Sport Fife).”

Athlete Derek Rae running in Amsterdam.

Athlete Derek Rae running in Amsterdam.

Richard was appointed chairman and a start up grant was provided by the Scottish Sports Council and Fife Regional Council for administrative and office support.

There have been some notable changes at DSF over the years, including the annual Fife Sports Festival being organised on a single afternoon in 1977 to it now being a three week event.

Equipment has also changed dramatically.

Richard said: “At the Paralympic Games in New York in 1984 Aileen Harper from Glenrothes won gold in a wheelchair that was not fit for her purpose. Four years later in Seoul, Kerry Taylor from Dunfermline also won gold – in a bespoke battery operated power wheelchair.

DSF wheelchair racing team 2017.

DSF wheelchair racing team 2017.

“Speed and exceptional manoeuvrability were features of this wheelchair yet Kerry’s coaches had to chase around looking for acid because the battery had to be dry to travel by plane.

“Travel during those early years was a real challenge for athletes and coaches.

“But today, athlete welfare is a priority.”

Richard said there have also been improvements in artificial limbs.

He continued: “They have undergone a transformation from wood, cork and other heavy materials through to the exceptionally light carbon fibre flex foot that offers as much, if not more, than an actual ankle joint.

“But support services available to leading GB Para athletes since 2000 are where the significant changes have taken place.

“DSF had to fundraise for its high performance athlete members during the 70s, 80s and part of the 90s, whereas now the leading Para athletes have access to the nation’s top coaches, medical support and funding.”

Throughout the 80s, 90s, and noughties, DSF also supported the involvement of Fife athletes and players with a learning disability in numerous Special Olympics Games at home and overseas.

It has achieved a great deal since it began 40 years ago, in part due to incredible financial support. Nationally, DSF has been supported by the Big Lottery, parent body Scottish Disability Sport and Sportscotland, as well as Rotary International and the Order of St John Fife.

DSF is also completing year one of three of the Get Out Get Active (GOGA in Fife) funding programme, which is supported by Spirit of 2012.

Richard added: “DSF has gone from strength to strength in the past four decades.

“Today it commands respect as the lead body in the development and co-ordination of disability sport in Fife.”

DSF athletes achievements ...

Many DSF athletes have recorded incredible achievements.

Derek Rae from Kirkcaldy achieved personal bests in Virgin London Marathons wearing a GB vest, swiftly followed by a call up for the Rio Paralympic Games.

Colin Keay from Kirkcaldy won four gold medals at the Paralympic Games in 1984 and 1988. Caroline Baird MBE from Cupar won five Paralympic medals. Paul Noble MBE, Glenrothes, has competed at five Paralympic Games and won swimming medals in all five. Pauline Latto from Buckhaven won silver in javelin in Sydney 2000. And Anne Swann, Methil, was a triple gold medallist at the 1984 Games.