Isabel Newstead was one of Scotland’s most remarkable Paralympic athletes, excelling in three sports and winning 18 medals in seven consecutive Games.
Born Isabel Barr in Glasgow in 1955, she was a promising swimmer until, at the age of 19, her spinal cord was damaged by a flu virus, leading to tetraplegia.
Isabel kept practising in the pool as part of her rehabilitation, and was soon spotted by the British paraplegic swimming team. She duly made her debut at the 1980 Paralympic Games in Arnhem and was an instant sensation, winning three golds for the 25m backstroke, breaststroke and freestyle.
Four years later, at Stoke Mandeville, she won nine medals in three different sports – swimming, shooting and athletics. Six medals came in the pool alone, while she picked up silver in the shot put and discus.
Health problems forced Isabel to stop swimming, but in 1988 she was back at the Paralympics in Seoul where she won four medals for the British team in discus (gold), shot put (silver), javelin (bronze) and – away from track and field – in shooting (bronze).
Disaster struck at the 1992 Games in Barcelona when an error by her coach saw her miss the final of one event, which she had been leading after the preliminary rounds. Four years later, in Atlanta, she suffered a broken hip after falling from her wheelchair.
Overcoming these setbacks, Isabel battled back to win shooting gold at Sydney 2000 and the following year was awarded an MBE in recognition of her 17 Paralympic medals – nine gold, four silver and four bronze.
Isabel’s final Paralympic appearance came at the 2004 Games in Athens, where she set a new world record with another gold medal in the women’s air pistol.
She was preparing to defend her title at the Beijing Paralympics when, in 2006, she was diagnosed with cancer. She died the following year aged 51.
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