How I became a para athlete

Amar-Mazigh Aichoun was diagnosed with MS at 13. Now he's a para athlete. He tells us about racing, his training and how MS affects him.

When I was 13, my body started to go numb and my vision got blurry. I didn’t pay much attention to it, because as a kid these things don’t bother you. The GP told me I had a throat infection and gave me some antibiotics.

The next day my symptoms got lots worse and my mum took me to A&E. I had a stroke and was put into a coma. I remember waking up afterwards not being able to move and dribbling into a vomit bowl. I was terrified.

I was rushed to different hospitals for tests. I remember crying as I said goodbye to my dad from inside an ambulance. I thought this was the last time I’d see him.

An MRI scan and lumbar puncture confirmed it was MS. I still feel the pain of that needle entering my spine. I didn’t know what MS was. My neurologist gave me a comic called ‘MEDIKIDZ’ and I started to do research online.

My brother and sister came to visit every now and then, and we’d play pool and table football. My symptoms eased off and I could walk slowly with my mother’s help. I was really wobbly at first.

I started to recover from the vision troubles and weakness in my left side, so I was discharged.

Back to school

About two months after my diagnosis, I was back on my feet and carrying on with my daily life. I carried on being who I was and didn’t considering myself as an MS ‘sufferer’.

My school was great – my walking was slow, so they let me leave class five minutes early to get to the next lesson and take extra time at lunch to take my medication.

When I got better, I started to do athletics. I competed for my school in the 100m and placed 4th with a time of 11.6 - I was really happy.

I saw potential in myself and really wanted to improve, so I joined Connie Henry’s Track Academy. It helped me to grow – both as an athlete and as a person. The club felt like a second home. Somewhere I could train and socialise with other athletes.

I was lucky not to have another relapse until I turned. I was rushed to hospital and given steroids through a drip. I hate needles!

The left side of my body was all frozen for days, paralysed and cold. It felt worse than frostbite. I was so cold that I slept with wearing three pyjamas and five socks on my left foot. Brrr!

Training hard

With the help of a great friend and athlete Lumar, I started to get my strength back. He encouraged me and we worked together to get me where I needed to be. Thanks to him, I recovered and felt stronger than ever.

All the training paid off and the next year I ran two personal bests in the 100m and 200m.

Now I train six times a week. I do track training with an academy and strength and conditioning training. The stronger I get the better I feel about my MS.

My vision is basically blurred. It’s really hard not being able to see clearly during training. I find it hard to see facial expressions or even hurdles or cones, but I feel better than ever.

Racing on the world stage

When the 2016 Olympics arrived, Lumar insisted that I get classified to compete internationally. I followed his advice and got classified as a national T38.

In December, I was rushed to hospital – this time for emergency hernia surgery, but I got better quickly. Four months later I went to Dubai to compete for Great Britain at the international Grand Prix. I won my 100m final race.

I’m now training for my next competition – I’ll be competing for Team GB at the world para juniors in Switzerland.

I really want to go out and do my best. I can’t come back home with a silver or bronze. It has to be gold for me. I’ve worked for it and I’m the fastest junior in the world this year, so why not?

Next stop Usain Bolt speed. Wish me luck!

> Find out more about exercise and MS.