John McFall is seeking to become the first person with a physical disability to go into space ©European Space Agency

British Paralympic medallist John McFall is aiming to become the first person with a physical disability to go into space after being recruited by the European Space Agency (ESA).

McFall was one of 17 candidates from 22,500 applicants to be selected by the ESA after undergoing a series of medical exams, practical tests, group exercises, psychological assessments and interviews.

The 41-year-old, who competed at the Beijing 2008 Paralympic Games where he won men's 100 metres T42 bronze, is set to attend a 12-month training programme starting in 2023 and serve at the European Astronaut Centre in Cologne in Germany.

"I was incredibly excited and proud of myself that I got through the selection process," said McFall.

"It'd been quite a whirlwind experience.

"As an amputee, I'd never thought that being an astronaut was a possibility, so excitement was a huge emotion and I look forward to what the future holds.

"The message that I would give to future generations is that science is for everyone and space travel, hopefully, can be for everyone."

John McFall claimed bronze at the Beijing 2008 Paralympics ©Getty Images
John McFall claimed bronze at the Beijing 2008 Paralympics ©Getty Images

McFall was involved a motorcycle crash at the age of 19 while on holiday in Thailand, which resulted in the amputation of his right leg.

After the life-changing incident, McFall re-learned how to run and was racing competitively by 2005.

As well as winning bronze at the Paralympics, McFall won silver and bronze medals at the World Championships and reached the podium at the European Championships, the International Wheelchair and Amputee Sports World Games and on the World Cup circuit.

After retiring from sport, McFall served as an ambassador and attaché for the International Paralympic Committee at the London 2012 Paralympic Games.

McFall returned to medical school in 2008 and holds a bachelor's degree in medicine and surgery and has worked in different medical and surgical positions at the British National Health Service.

"I realised that I couldn’t be an athlete for my whole life," said McFall.

"I probably needed to get a proper job, so I thought, 'What would I’ve liked to have done had I been 15, 16 and not wanted to join the army?'

"And that was when I thought about medicine - the idea of learning so much more about the way stuff works, how we work, but applying it and doing something practical."

McFall’s ambition to become the world's first Para astronaut started when he came across the ESA's advert last year.

"When the advert for an astronaut with a physical disability came out, I read the person’s specifications and what it entailed, and I thought, 'Wow, this is such a huge, interesting opportunity', and I thought that I would be a very good candidate to help ESA answer the question they were asking - can we get someone with a physical disability into space and I felt compelled to apply," said McFall.

"I'm extremely excited about using the skills that I have for problem solving, identifying issues and overcoming obstacles that allow people with a physical disability to perform the job equally to their able-bodied counterpart."