Neil Fachie

8th February 2013 at 00:00
An enthusiastic primary teacher and a crazy-looking scientist pushed the 2012 cycling gold medallist on

In P6-7 I had Mr Dickie, a pretty special teacher. He was the first male teacher I had, an outgoing guy, quite young.

I was particularly shy. He helped me be more confident. He was really tall, and I was tiny. I guess at first he was quite intimidating, but he was so welcoming that within a few days everyone was comfortable.

In P7 we got to do PE every afternoon, pretty much for the whole year. It made you work hard, then you got to enjoy life. I was rubbish at sport - one of the last picked in PE - but I just liked being outside and doing sport. I hadn't done much before, but started getting into it.

If the weather was bad, we'd do karaoke. It got everyone involved - all your shy people became a little less shy. Mr Dickie found ways to get everyone interacting.

We had a trip to the sewage works, the least inspiring trip ever. That was his idea. It was actually quite interesting. He had excitement for everything - even sewage works - and you can't help but learn when someone's that enthusiastic.

I was diagnosed with my eye condition, retinitis pigmentosa, at age 5. It got worse as I got older. I had to sit at the front for a chance of seeing the blackboard, but was never keen to say I was struggling. Mr Dickie was very good at getting things enlarged, always willing to do that extra bit.

One time I punched a bully on the nose. He'd been picking on me for being short for a long time. Mr Dickie gave me into trouble, but when we were on our own he said he understood, not to worry - he kind of let me off.

At Oldmachar, my chemistry teacher was Mr Smith. He was the stereotypical crazy scientist, didn't do things by the book - that's what made it great. Experiments would start with him saying: "Now, we shouldn't really do this, it's not that safe ..." You always had a bit of fear but it was a lot of fun - that's half the battle with learning, isn't it?

It got me interested in science, which led on to my previous life as a physicist. He helped me with my eyesight, too. He was always willing to come over and help. And I'd have chats with him at lunchtime. He wouldn't talk to you like you were a kid - he was a down-to-earth chap.

I was very hard working and regret not being more outgoing - I didn't really come out of my shell until university. But bullying was never really an issue; I kept my head down and had a really good group of friends. I went back to Oldmachar recently. I told the pupils that being unique is a good thing, something that in later life everyone strives for.

It's very hard to put the Paralympics into words - it was like being a rock star for a couple of weeks, something we're definitely not used to. The support was unreal. We didn't expect the whole media coverage and everyone to be watching on TV. It was insane. In the velodrome it was like a rock concert - deafening.

When I crossed the line and won gold, the first emotion was relief that the plan we'd been working on for years had worked. I heard we broke the world record, and all the tension came out, I was pumping my fist. Then it was overwhelming - you've got that many people cheering you and what you've achieved.

I didn't do a lot of sport through school teams, but I got lots of encouragement from teachers. They asked how I was getting on, and understood that if I was away all weekend competing, it wasn't always easy to get homework done. I'd love to meet up with Mr Dickie and Mr Smith and thank them - my life has turned out pretty well.

Neil Fachie was speaking to Henry Hepburn.

PERSONAL PROFILE

Born: Aberdeen, 1984

Education: Greenbrae Primary and Oldmachar Academy, Aberdeen; physics at the University of Aberdeen.

Career: Competed in athletics at 2008 Paralympics in Beijing, but turned to cycling after failing to win a medal. At London 2012 he won gold in the men's 1km time trial for riders with a visual impairment, breaking the world record with sighted pilot Barney Storey, and silver in the individual sprint. Appointed MBE in the 2013 New Year Honours.

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