Fife Mourns the Passing of a Class Athlete

Within the past few days Disability Sport Fife (DSF) has learned of the loss of athlete Derek Frew from Glenrothes who passed away following a long illness. Our thoughts are with Derek’s friends and family during this period of sadness and loss.

DSF will remember Derek for the contribution he made to the Association as a young enthusiastic wheelchair racer in particular. Derek was ahead of his time but at the same time at the cutting edge of the development of Para sport north of the Border.

Like so many young Fife athletes with a physical impairment Derek was introduced to DSF when he was a pupil at Southwood Primary and attending a learn to swim class at the Fife Sports Institute led by Colin McGinlay. Swimming was never his favourite activity but it led to engagement in sport and the Monday evening multi sports session at the Institute. Wheelchair basketball in particular was a favourite activity.

It was evident early on that Derek had exceptional wheelchair handling skills and he was fast around the basketball court. This led to involvement in wheelchair racing and his friendship with coach David Sellar blossomed. In one of the early photos of Derek, he is lined up with Kenny Suttie, Iain Matthew and Paul (PJ) Johnston. PJ and Iain went on to successfully represent Team GB in Para swimming. Kenny and Derek became racing and training partners for many years..

Thanks to support from the Order of St John in Fife, DSF was able to purchase its own mini bus and travel to race meets all over the country. The late Danny Montague and thereafter Dale Wilson supported the developing Fife wheelchair racing team that also included Evelyn Cran (nee Neave), Martin McArdle and Nicky Diatchenko. As a group they contributed to the increase in interest in the wheelchair race that was part of the Glenrothes Half Marathon/10K. Leading racers from all over the UK travelled to Fife for the meet and during the early years accommodation was provided at the Forward Centre.

Derek became a committed wheelchair racer and through time was coached by Rachel Edgar at Fife AC. Vicky Strange at the Tayside and Fife Institute of Sport supported and believed in Derek and during the early years he delivered. Derek was however unable to make the transition to GB level but his races against Ross Lowe and Kenny Suttie will be remembered by many and formed the basis of the wheelchair racing programme of the present day. Derek was the master of the short sprint whereas the others were more at home in middle and longer distance races.

Along with a very talented group of young Scottish swimmers, Derek and Kenny went on to represent Scottish Schools Sport at the European Schools Games in Lisbon. This was Derek’s only international representative honour but he seized the opportunity enthusiastically and performed exceptionally well. His commitment to his sport at the height of his career involved him wheeling daily from home along Boblingen Way to the Fife Sports Institute. With support from the staff at Provident Personal Credit, DSF was able to purchase new racing chairs for Derek and also build a shed and training rollers at home. It is not an exaggeration to describe Derek as the fastest Fife wheelchair sprinter in the 40 year history of DSF.

Derek Frew was a man of few words but exceptionally popular within his peer group. Derek was a team player, determined competitor and a young man who worked hard in the gym and on the track. Derek was around when support services were available but limited. Derek was a loyal DSF member who could always be relied on to support Team Fife. Derek had an excellent career in athletics and was part of a very special era in wheelchair racing in Fife. Derek may have passed away but will always be remembered.

Richard Brickley MBE
President, Disability Sport Fife