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As a schoolboy, Paralympian Steve Brown told his teacher he wanted to either represent his country as a sportsman or be a wildlife presenter. Amazingly, Steve achieved both ambitions – despite incurring a life-changing injury. Read his story on
on location in essex, Paralympian
Steve Brown tells TV Times about his life-changing injury and his joy at becoming a presenter on Countryfile
factual Countryfile sunday / bbc1 / 7.00Pm
If Paralympian-turnedCountryfile presenter Steve Brown had listened to his school careers advisor, his life may have turned out differently.
‘I wanted to be a sportsperson playing for England and he said, “That won’t be easy, what’s your plan B?” Then I said I wanted to be like David Attenborough and travel the world learning about wildlife, and he said, “Reel it in, lots of people want to be like Attenborough”,’ recalls Steve, who turns 36 on 2 June.
Steve has proved that teacher wrong in style – captaining Team GB in the wheelchair rugby at the London 2012 Paralympics and becoming a regular contributor to BBC1’S popular magazine show.
‘They are the two things my careers advisor said I’d never be able to do and here I am,’ laughs Steve as TV Times meets him near Chelmsford, Essex, where he is shooting a film about medieval longbows for this Sunday’s Countryfile [see box, right]. ‘I just hope he’s watching!’
It’s not just his careers advisor’s low expectations that Steve has overcome
– he has achieved both of his childhood dreams after sustaining a life-changing injury. Working in Germany for a holiday company in 2005, Steve, then 24, fell from a first-floor balcony and broke his neck. The injury left him paralysed from the chest down. ‘That changed everything,’ he admits. ‘I lost my confidence. I’d been travelling the world and now I was scared of leaving hospital. Being introduced to wheelchair rugby was a massive turning point. A lot of people I met had worse injuries and I thought, “Who am I to worry about my future?” To then see my team come fifth in London was amazing.’
A dislocated thumb thwarted Steve’s hopes of competing at the Rio Paralympics in 2016, but the injury allowed him to concentrate on pursuing a TV career when he was asked to be a BBC pundit for the Invictus Games and part of
C4’s presenting team for Rio.
‘Everything crashed down when I couldn’t go to Rio and I had to reinvent myself again, so now being a Countryfile presenter is brilliant, and I’m proud and lucky to be here!’ beams Steve, who also features on The One Show. ‘I love wildlife, there’s so much diversity in the British countryside and this job is giving me so many opportunities.’
Steve’s enthusiasm for the countryside is infectious, and his constant wisecracking – ‘Make sure you tell your readers about my terrain skills,’ he chuckles as he manoeuvres his chair over uneven ground in the woods – has made him a hit with Countryfile viewers.
‘Strangers get in touch and they don’t say, “It’s great seeing a guy in a wheelchair working on a wildlife show”, they say, “Your enthusiasm for voles really comes across”, or “We love your cheeky smile”,’ he says. ‘I was nervous people would say, “Steve is part of the
Countryfile team because he’s in a wheelchair”. But nobody worries about the chair, it isn’t the centre of attention.’
Steve’s love of wildlife was nurtured during his childhood by his father, when the family lived on the Isle of Sheppey in Kent.
‘I’d always watch things like The Really Wild Show or The Trials of Life, and I’d head off to find sticklebacks, newts and frogs in the river near home, or go into the fields and catch grasshoppers, or help out with orphaned lambs on a farm,’ says Steve.
‘Dad was a massive influence. We’d walk the dog and listen to the skylarks. Now I do the same with my nephew. I can’t take him to football, but I can take him out with a bird book and teach him patience and empathy.’
Steve’s family is pretty chuffed that he’s working on Countryfile.
‘My family loves the countryside,’ he says. ‘As a kid, John Craven’s Newsround was my bread and butter, and now I can tell my dad I spent the day with him. My uncle asked me the other day, “Can
I come on a Countryfile shoot with you?” I was so happy to say yes.’
Steve still hopes to emulate David Attenborough and travel the globe sharing his love of wildlife.
‘People say, “If that accident happened to me, I couldn’t do what you have done; I’d be sitting indoors watching TV”, but I always wanted to do my best and my injury hasn’t changed my character,’ he says.
‘If you’re happy, whatever life throws at you, you see the positive.
‘I’ve always liked to overcome challenges. I make the most of any situation and this is just another situation.’
If you’re happy, whatever
life throws at you, you see the
positive old craft: Steve gets a lesson in bow making In action: Steve competing at the 2012 Paralympics