After a life-changing 2021, Scott Meenagh is fully focused on creating a legacy in Para Nordic skiing
“She’s given me a lot of reasons to get up and do my best every day,” Scott Meenagh explains, with a smile. The British Para Nordic trailblazer is talking about the birth of his daughter. “She arrived three months early, which was a bit of a shock”, he says with just a hint of understatement, “but it’s been really special.”
Special, undoubtedly, but for an athlete whose dedication to their sport is near-legendary among his teammates, a challenge nonetheless. “I used to eat, train, rest; eat, train, rest;” he explains, “but now I’m doing these hard sessions, and then pretty much going straight from there into my car, to the hospital and…”, he tails off for a moment. “Any regard for your own welfare, you know, is out the window. You’re caring for your daughter and for your wife.”
The induction to fatherhood might have thrown up some new routines, but Scott Meenagh is a man who’s used to blazing new trails.
Back in 2018, Meenagh became the first British Para Nordic skier to represent his country at the Paralympic Winter Games. It’s an experience that he describes as “probably the first time in my life that a dream – which was truly a dream – had finally, really come true.” Typical of Meenagh, though, his thoughts were less on his own achievements and more on what they could mean in time to come.
“Mostly, I was really proud”, he explains. “Really proud of the programme and the support around me, the people who’d dared to dream with me and to make it happen. At PyeongChang we were just as passionate about creating a legacy and blazing a trail for others to follow. And I think the squad we have now, the support we have from GB Snowsport and UK Sport now, is a real testament to that legacy.”
And as for Beijing? “You know, the fact that there is a Nordic team shows that we left a real marker in PyeongChang. That’s something we all want to take into Beijing.”
Meenagh’s enthusiasm for what that team represents is clear, never more so than when he talks about the dynamic within the squad; “a really good relationship”, he explains, but one built on a code. “As a team, we do everything we can to make each other better every day. You know, essentially, the better I get today, the better everyone else in the team will have to get as a result of it. We pick each other up, and we share an identity. It’s a really cool dynamic, and I get so much energy out of the time I spend alongside the other guys.”
And on race day?
“Well, we’ve got an understanding that when we’re on the start line, essentially the outcome…it’s quite an individual, selfish performance. But the better we each do, the better we all are on that start line.”
He might be best known for his Para Nordic exploits, but for Meenagh – a double above knee amputee – it might have been another sport altogether. In his youth, he was a highly promising rugby player who represented Scotland at Under-18 level and then, post injury, an international level Para Rower. And while Meenagh’s pleased with the support around the Para Nordic discipline now, when it first came to switching disciplines, the contrast from the Rowing environment was stark.
“Coming over…probably the most challenging part was coming from GB Rowing – probably the most well-oiled, well-refined Olympic medal machine that’s ever existed – to a system where I really had to build that system around me, and find the people who were passionate and willing to believe in that journey.”
It’s a decision he shows no regret over. “Nordic’s just such a complete sport, you know? You have to be really, really fit. Strong, a diligent endurance athlete. You’ve got to have the technical skills of a skier, good decision making, knowing when to gamble and when to risk manage. And that’s what attracted me to it. That’s why I love it as much as I do.”
It’s that love for the sport, and the dedication to blaze a trail through it, that’s a large part of the reason Para Nordic is seen as one of the nation’s most promising disciplines on the eve of the new season, a sense boosted by the launch of new Williams Advanced Engineering sit-ski rigs, which he describes as “really good, really confident in them. It’s been a great project to be involved in; the guys [WAE’s expert engineering team] have been super patient with us, and we’ve felt very included in the design process from the very start.” Around the squad, there’s a definite buzz. “We’re just really excited with the outcome.”
We return, finally, to the rugby. Meenagh continues to stay in touch with Glasgow Warriors and the Scottish national team, environments from which, he says, he’s been able to take lessons on culture and group behaviour, and apply them to the Para Nordic world. Will his old teammates be cheering him on? “Yeah, I hope so!”, he says. “They always take a keen interest in what I’m doing. As much as I admire the work they do, I think the feeling’s mutual. They’re interested, and they like to see us do well.”
Family. Current and former teammates. And a whole nation. When he next sits at the starting line, Meenagh knows he’s got a world of support behind him.
Scott Meenagh Biography
- Born: 1989
- Discipline: Para Nordic
- Hometown: Cumbernauld, Scotland
- Top Paralympic Finish: 13th, Men’s 12.5km Sitting Biathlon, PyeongChang 2018
Header Image: Scott Meenagh