Aaron Phipps will be in his forties when Paris 2024 rolls around but the prospect of his daughters seeing him go for gold in person is enough to quash any talk of a second retirement, writes Paul Martin.
Phipps and his wheelchair rugby teammates etched their names into the history books by storming to the top of the podium in Tokyo, with the gripping victory over USA in the final watched by more than a million UK viewers.
Among them were a large contingent of Phipps’ friends and family back home in Totton and the noise of their front-room celebrations, which later went viral, could perhaps have reached the Japanese capital with a strong wind.
But performing at a Paralympics in front of his family was a key motivating factor behind the 38-year-old’s decision to return to the sport in 2017 and is now acting as fuel to keep his fire burning.
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“If my girls [Ella and Chloe] had been there, maybe I would have retired as a gold medal would have been a nice ending to the story,” he said.
“But I’d really like to take them to a Games and Paris is a lot closer than Tokyo. I think I’ve got another three years in me.
“Next year will be bonkers with the Worlds and the Euros but I’m going to carry on for now. We want to consolidate ourselves as really strong medal contenders.
“I’d have been happy with bronze this summer so to go all the way was out of this world.
“It completely exceeded our expectations and I don’t know if it will ever sink in. I keep looking at the medal and going ‘I can’t believe we’ve done this’.”
An appearance on The Last Leg and lunch with Prince Edward have been part of Phipps’ whirlwind six weeks since returning home and Great Britain’s ‘murderball’ heroes have now been crowned the inaugural National Lottery Awards Paralympians of the Year.
The squad, among more than 1,000 athletes on the National Lottery-funded UK Sport World Class Programme, topped a public vote at the National Lottery Awards and Phipps hopes their summer success will take the brutal and exhilarating sport to new heights.
“We had over a million people tuning in to watch the final and people have come up to me and said ‘oh my gosh, I watched that game’,” he said.
“That didn’t happen before. They might have known I’d been at a Paralympics but to point out specific parts of the match and get that hype is massive.
“Participation has gone through the roof. People are more aware of it and we have lots more people trying it.
“Before London 2012, we had eight teams in the UK. After London, that went up to 30 and now this has just accelerated it again.”
No one does more to support our Olympic and Paralympic athletes than National Lottery players, who raise more than £30 million each week for good causes including grassroots and elite sport. For more information about The National Lottery Awards visit www.lotterygoodcauses.org.uk and follow the campaign on Twitter: @LottoGoodCauses #NLAwards