Neil Fachie MBE is a remarkable Paralympic multiple-sports athlete, who specialises in track cycling.
Having won gold and silver medals at London 2012 in the Tandem B events for athletes with visual impairments, he’s setting his sights on Tokyo 2020.
Here’s what he had to say…
I got involved in sports from a young age and I was trying all kinds of sports. A lot of my time was spent down in Aberdeen Athletics club down at what was Chris Anderson Stadium and now the Aberdeen Sports Village. I was out playing with friends at school and doing sports as much as I could. I had a competitive nature from a young age and getting out there and burning off some energy was something my parents encouraged so they can get some peace. I recall a lot of time my mum telling me to get out of the house and do something, which I didn’t argue with at any time.
I grew up in Bridge of Don and I spent my first 25 years living in the same house. I spent the best part of my life there. I went to Oldmachar Academy and then University of Aberdeen after that. I moved just south of Manchester and I have been here for ten years now. It is sad not to be in Aberdeen area but it is good to come back when I can. It’s good to come up and see friend and family whenever I get the opportunity.
In primary school, I loved Mr. Dickie because he let us do sports in the afternoons. I had a science teacher as well, Mr. Smith, who had that wacky scientist thing going for him. I think that encouraged me to go down the science route. I ended up doing physics at university. He’s one of the people who got me interested in the sciences.
I got into international sport during the last year of my degree, which came at a good time. I just scraped through my final year and at that point when people are panicking about getting a job, I just had that opportunity where I could into full time sport. It wasn’t well funded at that point in time, but it was a good chance. It saved me from having to think what I was actually going to do with my life which I hadn’t decided yet.
There have been highs and lows along the way. In terms of real high points, winning at the Paralympics at London 2012 was immense. Just from an atmosphere point of view – the hype around it was incredible. Likewise, winning golds in Glasgow at the Commonwealth Games was special for the same reason. I was very lucky to get two Games that were at home back to back. More recently, winning at the Commonwealth Games 2018 and at the World Championships. When I experienced the defeat at the Paralympics a couple of years back, I thought it was the end of my career and I thought things were falling apart. I found my way back up and that was retribution; getting back on the top of the world had a lot of personal meaning to it.
I was in athletics previously for Beijing. I qualified a week before the end of the qualifying period. It was touch and go whether I’d be able to go or not. Just getting to go to the game was immense. I don’t think at that time, I appreciated it quite how big the Paralympics was. I saw it on TV a few weeks before and I remember thinking, ‘I am going to be racing there and I hope the crowds are sort of, a tenth as big as what they are during the Olympics.’
The Paralympic Village is the most diverse place on earth. That small area that is fenced off and you have got people from all across the globe, all these people with various disabilities. It couldn’t get more diverse – it is incredible. It is incredible to watch how different nations approach disabilities in different ways. Initially when you walk in it is massively overwhelming but I absolutely fell in love with the Paralympics as soon as I walked in for the first time. It shows how people around the world get by and excel with their disabilities. It is amazing. That’s probably what made me fall in love with the whole Paralympic experience. It is a pretty special place and unfortunately not many people get to experience that with the security being so tight at these events. It is athletes and staff only but it is incredible.
I am training for Tokyo 2020. Things are looking promising and we’ll see how it goes – it’s a big ask just to get onto the team. I have not been to Japan yet and it is one of those places I’ve always been intrigued to visit. You don’t tend to see a whole lot when you are in championships but, you do get a bit of a flavour for it. I want to immerse myself in the Games environment. The buzz you get from taking part in a championships like that is immense. It may or may not be my last one, I haven’t decided yet.
Getting my MBE letter was very surreal. I was telling my wife as to how the letter just came through the door. Usually it’s just bills that come through the door in brown envelopes so you’re not really expecting it when you are opening it. The experience was very nerve-wracking. When it comes to sporting events I get nervous, but you know what you’re doing – with something as big as that I was scared that I was going to be the one that falls over and messes up. But it was such a great experience and a great honour. I had a brief chat with the Queen about my sporting career and Rio, it is something that will always stay with me. Four years after, I got to see my wife Lora Fachie receive the award.
Chris Hoy is my sporting hero. He was an inspiration even before I got involved in cycling. He was highly thought of in Scotland and UK and I was fortunate that I got to train alongside him from 2009 till after 2012. He is the most down to earth, hardworking guy, he was willing to chat and help anyone out. He showed that you could be that level of an athlete but still be very normal with it. He doesn’t get carried away by it. When I switched from athletics to cycling, I thought if he is able to work so hard, I should be too. He was a real inspiration.
In 2017, I set up a business to help people with special needs in business environments. The goal was to help them reach their potential using techniques that we use to maximize our performance on daily basis in sports. I spent a lot of time setting it up and I want to have it up and running on the day I walk away from sports.
At the moment I am writing a book as well, which I am hoping to get out sometime next year. It’s a big ask actually. When you’ve told people you’re doing it, you’re basically committed then. So you suddenly realise that you’ve got to get it done.
I have too many pet hates as I get older and grumpier! One the worst for me is that in the British Cycling gym sessions there are a few that put on some absolutely awful music – it seems to have taken over in the last 5 years – probably since Chris Hoy left actually. There’s no one with authority to stop them! The hip hop and rap era has taken over and that drives me mad on a daily basis in the gym.
My dream superpower… I would love to create more time in the day, I honestly haven’t gotten enough. If I can slow time down that would be immense. I might get my book out in time if I did that.
I did a tandem skydive this year. That was pretty surreal. My wife did it as well – I got it for her 30th birthday. She dropped out the plane just before me – so I was just watching my wife fall out of a plane and thinking, ‘well, that’s a bit weird, I guess I should go too…’
To read more of our north east Credos, click on the following links:
- Scottish Rugby star, Chris Cusiter
- Call the Midwife actress, Laura Main
- River City’s Roisin McIntyre, Joyce Falconer
- Triple-Olympic swimmer, David Carry
- Patron of the Lonach Highland and Friendly Society, Sir James Forbes of Newe