Seonaid McIntosh determined arthritis won't beat her

Most youngsters would struggle with the painful and untimely limitations of arthritis but, for Seonaid McIntosh, the implications are even more frustrating.

Saturday, 2nd December 2017, 5:30 am
Shooter Seonaid McIntosh hopes to emulate big sister Jen by winning Commonwealth Games medals. Picture: Jeff Holmes

“It’s a real pain,” she says. “No pun intended!”

The 21-year-old from Edinburgh is an elite athlete and a third year electrical engineering student, with busy days and big ambitions. She was one of the 35 names added to the lengthening list of Team Scotland representatives earlier this week, and will head out to Gold Coast in the spring with the intention of winning at least one Commonwealth shooting gold. But to have the best chance of fulfilling her potential she will have to hope that her joint disorder does not rear it’s head at an inopportune moment.

“There were lots of competitions last year that I had to pull out of but it meant that every competition I did go to I thought ‘I have to win this one’.

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Jen McIntosh. Pic: Paul Reid

“I had to have each flare-up treated and I would have to work my way back from that. I had a lot of them in my legs and I had to do a lot of therapy to build muscle back into my legs and get my balance back. It was quite a long process but I think it has made me a better shooter in the long run.

“I had it in my knee and it is not so much that the joint can’t move but the muscles would normally expand into the joint and when that is full of fluid there is nowhere to expand to so I couldn’t walk very well and I was kind of just dragging my legs. Normally when my knees are bad, I can get about on crutches but when your wrists are bad as well, you can’t hold the crutches and that was really, really difficult and really painful. It only lasts a few days at a time but it is enough.

New medication means that she has been free from the worst side effects since early this year and, although she has to guard against fatigue and work on her muscle tone, that has granted her the good health to find her best form, winning the European 50m rifle 3 positions title. She followed that up with another gold in that discipline at the recent Commonwealth test event and added silver in the 50m rifle prone, finishing behind her elder sister Jen.

The timing of her success, with the Gold Coast games looming, has bolstered her belief that she can start adding Commonwealth medals to her personal treasure trove. Missing out on a podium place at the 2014 Commonwealth Games was tough on McIntosh and sitting out the Rio Olympics two years later courtesy of a wrist injury was emotionally taxing but every setback has simply made the 21-year-old stronger.

Jen McIntosh. Pic: Paul Reid

A member of the McIntosh shooting dynasty, with mum Shirley and sister Jen both highly decorated and two of the most successful Scottish athletes at Commonwealth Games, her dad Donald also represented the country as a competitor and is now a coach.

After torturing herself with the thought that she may never get the chance to meet their high standards and might even have to give up the sport due to the arthritis, she is also hungrier than ever for medals.

“I think a lot of athletes will have had that feeling - that sometimes it is just too hard but we all have to push through it.”

Finishing the last Games empty-handed, then being forced to spectate at the Olympics due to a wrist injury, has simply added fuel to the burning desire and she knows golds are realistic targets. A year ago she would have said the air rifle offered her the best chance but recent results in the 3-position and prone events have prompted a rethink. Perhaps even given her the belief that she could return with more than one shiny reward...