Britain's first Paralympic stars remember the golden days

Margaret Maughan (left) and Sally Haynes
Margaret Maughan (left) and Sally Haynes. Photo: ITV News

Margaret Maughan and Sally Haynes have been friends for a very long time.

1959 was the year that changed the course of both their lives. Margaret broke her back in a car accident and Sally fell while horse riding.

They were both treated at Stoke Mandeville hospital by a pioneer called Dr Ludwig Guttmann.

He had been running the spinal cord injuries unit for 15 years by then. His techniques were radical when he first introduced them.

"They used to put horrible sandbags down our backs to keep our spines straight," Margaret told me. He also insisted on turning patients every two hours to prevent bed sores.

We re-visited the hospital where they went through their rehabilitation.

Sally remembers Dr Guttmann as someone who cared deeply but could be authoritarian. "He was very open-minded and broad-minded, and strict! You did what you were told," she said.

Margaret Maughan
Margaret Maughan's success in the archery secured Britain's first Paralympic gold. Credit: ITV News

They both have a clear admiration for the man who treated them and an enormous gratitude that his methods set their lives in the direction of sport.

Both women have won gold medals at Paralympic Games. In the 1960s and 1970s, when they were competing, conditions were basic. Support, funding and the right equipment was often hard to come by. And of course, there wasn’t the media coverage.

Margaret holds a unique position in the history of Paralympic sport.

She won Great Britain's first ever gold medal (it was for archery). At first, she didn't even know she'd won. Margaret was on the coach ready to go back to the athlete's village when someone announced, "Where's Margaret Maughan? She's needed for a medal ceremony".

She recalled:

To my total amazement I was told to go up to the gold position, they played the national anthem… It was a bit bewildering but very proud that I got a medal.