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Margaret Maughan lights Paralympic flame at opening ceremony
2:58pm Thursday 30th August 2012 in News
A Paralympics legend from Watford lit the flame in the London games' opening ceremony last night in front of a "sea of people".
Margaret Maughan, of Oxhey Road, was Great Britain's first ever gold medallist at the games, and went on to win another four, and two silvers - more than Steve Redgrave's Olympic total.
She lit one of the petals of the cauldron, designed by Thomas Heatherwick, signifying the start of the London Paralympic Games.
The 84-year-old said: "One day the telephone rang and when I answered, it was Seb Coe. I told him I was honoured to speak to him and he said he'd be delighted if I could be part of the show.
"I did a rehearsal the day before and then I was in the show, with two lovely chaps, one who was injured in Afghanistan and the other was David Clarke, captain of the football team.
"I had to have someone push me because I couldn't hold the torch and control my wheelchair at the same time. It was just a sea of people all around, it was very emotional and impressive.
"I had an earpiece in and they told me to light the cauldron. It was beautiful and very warm when lit."
Ms Maughan was left paralysed from the waist down after a car crash in Africa in 1959, and was sent to Stoke Mandeville hospital.
She said: "There I was treated by Dr Ludwig Guttmann, who started the whole thing off, and I was taught archery as part of my rehabilitation.
"Everything was activity there, you had to be positive and think what you could do, not what you couldn't do."
Ms Maughan became "quite good at archery" and joined a club in Preston She was selected for the ninth Stoke Mandeville Games, later recognised as the First Summer Paralympic Games, which was held in Rome in 1960.
She won Britain's first ever Paralympic gold medal, in archery, and a second gold in 50m backstroke swimming.
Ms Maughan said: "It was quite exciting but none of us knew anything about it because it was quite new and there wasn't much press about it. I had my picture in the Lancashire Evening Post and that was about it.
"When I can home I had to sit in the guard's van on the train because there wasn't enough room in the carriage."
Mrs Maughan moved to Watford after she was offered a job by Mrs Parr, headteacher of Leggatts Girl School, and then went to work for Bushey Meads School before retirement.
She said: "It was very difficult for people in wheelchairs to get jobs in those days. I was very lucky to carry on with archery and I joined a very good club called West Herts Bowmen."
She competed in the 1968, 1972, 1976 and 1980 Paralympic Games, winning gold and silver medals in paired dartchery and lawn bowls.
Mrs Maughan said: "I won lots of medals, including in several Commonwealth Games. One of my Paralympic medals is in the British Museum and one of the others is in another exhibition.
"I think overall we'll do very well at this Paralympics, I think Danielle Brown in particular will do well in the archery."
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