NIALL MCCANN: BLOODY BUT UNBOWED | SPORTS REVIEW
Thurs 12 Jan
The warm and compactly set up room is full of people – friends, family, supporters, adventurers – everyone there to re-live an extraordinary tale from Niall McCann’s colourful and venturesome life. With a great amount of optimism and a cheerful tone, Niall introduces himself and warns us that a few of the photos he’s about to share might seem a little disturbing for some as they include blood, shredded body parts and faeces (giggles from the audience).
Niall began to go on expeditions at the age of eighteen, right after finishing school. He reveals that back then he wasn’t actually good at any of the things he was about to talk about – cycling, climbing, mountaineering, skiing or flying – however, he quickly discovered he was quite good at simply gritting his teeth and putting up with pain – he had found his niche in the business.
His story takes us from Kyrgyzstan, China to India, Greenland through Europe back to Wales and covers simply breath-taking adventures. He talks about simple things like sleeping and toilet arrangements whilst climbing a mountain and the years it takes to train and prepare for his travels, as well as very emotionally rich personal experiences on his most challenging, therefore especially inspiring expeditions. The word that stands out the most as he describes his both physically and psychologically strenuous yet fulfilling adventures is ‘extraordinary’. Extraordinary places he’s seen, situations he’s encountered, extraordinary people he’s met and even his time in hospital – it all fits the description.
In search of new adventures, Niall’s hunger for adrenaline kept growing, so understandably his every next challenge became progressively more dangerous, however, he admits, the biggest rush he ever got was from speedflying. Together with his brother, he kept testing his limits, going down increasingly steeper and more dangerous slopes. He does confess he wasn’t always ready for it and with each flight he put himself at a greater risk of failing. In May 2016 he crashed his speedwing into the steep north face of Pen Y Fan and was told he might never walk again.
The rest of the evening’s talk opens up a chapter of even greater determination and astounding strength following Niall’s recovery. One would think such a life-changing accident would bring to an end to his great adventurous spirit and positive attitude towards challenges and pain; however, astonishingly it’s just the opposite. Niall shares how the darkest moments allowed him to look back in gratitude at the colourful and fulfilling life he’s already lived. He invites the audience to greatly appreciate those whose lives are very tightly intertwined with our actions. His positive attitude shines through his words, stressing the importance of a disciplined mind – he knows the hopefulness and confidence about the future is what got him through the hardest times.
Niall is walking again. He light-heartedly discusses the most personal and intimate parts of his recovery and every sentence builds up the dose of inspiration. Not only has he shared the crazy parts of his life – inspiring as they are, he has proposed a way to deal with life when it gets unexpectedly difficult and out of control.
words GUNDIJA ZANDERSONA