Megan Shackleton's ability to adapt can see her thrive at European Para Table Tennis Championships in Sheffield
How she dealt with it and looks upon it now would suggest it changed her life for the better.
The school pupil from Todmorden was on a visit to her dad’s workplace when she was crushed by a piece of machinery.
“Wrong place, wrong time,” is how she reflects on a freak accident that left her with a spinal injury and in a wheelchair for the rest of her life. “I spent six months in Sheffield doing my rehabilitation, it was an intense thing to go through at nine-years-old.”
Shackleton was a promising young swimmer back then, a regular in the pool at John Charles Leisure Centre in Leeds. Her love for sport sustained her in those darkest hours.
Swimming formed part of her rehabilitation, and in early 2012, in the year of the London Paralympics, Shackleton tried table tennis at a Playground to Podium taster session in Leeds and never looked back. Within a year she had been noticed by the GB Table Tennis pathway.
“I’m doing really well for myself now, I’m fit and well and healthy, my rehab obviously went well,” she says proudly. “I’m independent and I’m competing in international sport at elite level, so it all worked out in the end. To be honest I don’t notice my disability; everything I want to do I’m able to do, I might just have to adapt it slightly.”
She has had some good people around her, mainly her family, but also in the GB squad.
Sue Bailey was one, the veteran Paralympic table tennis player from Barnsley, who split her time between competing and teaching. “When we first started working together I was 14 and she was in the height of her career so I would follow in those footsteps,” says Shackleton of a women three decades her senior.
“I don’t think we felt the age gap too much. Obviously we had the common interest of table tennis, but as she was a teacher she was big into me doing my studies and working hard at school.”
The partnership blossomed at the Tokyo Paralympics, when Bailey in her sixth Games and Shackleton – then 21 – her first, won a bronze medal in their women’s doubles category.
“Tokyo was such a special time, I’d always wanted to represent Great Britain on an elite stage and to take a bronze medal at my first Games was really special,” says Shackleton, a full-time, Lottery-funded athlete who is also studying for a degree in English Literature at the University of Sheffield.
“It was really nice to do it with Sue, she’s been to five or six Games, finally got the medal she’d always wanted, so it was really special.”
Which brings us to next week’s European Para Table Tennis Championships at the GB base at the English Institute of Sport in Sheffield from September 4-9.
Shackleton, who missed most of last year through injury, will contest the singles and mixed doubles with her new partner Jack Hunter-Spivey, a Commonwealth Games gold medallist last summer
“Jack and I are really good friends and we’ve had some good results this season,” says Shackleton, who spends five days a week training in Sheffield, fitted around a studying schedule that demands she reads three books a week.
“Having the Europeans in Sheffield means family and friends can come and support as well, which is a little bit unprecedented, so I’m really excited.”
For tickets visit: https://www.seetickets.com/tour/2023-ittf-european-para-table-tennis-championships