Sunday, 26 August 2012

Paralympics 2012 - Great for disability sport and clubs

I have been suffering from Post-Olympic Depression Syndrome, so you can imagine how excited I am that on Wednesday the Paralympics begin. It’s not just because we’re going to have another 11 days of fantastic sport, but that we’re on the edge of something amazing.

The Paralympics seem to be selling out fast. I’m sure it’s not just because people want to experience the park and atmosphere, but because they want to witness sport they’ve never seen before, performed by people who have overcome physical and mental obstacles to realize their goals.

I’m a cycling instructor for Bikeworks All Ability Cycling Club. The club welcomes people of all ages, with either physical or learning disabilities to come and ride a bike. There are specially adapted bikes for all to experience and enjoy. Inclusive clubs like these are essential for both the mental and physical well-being of those who participate.

When I started as an instructor there 4 years ago, I admit that I had preconceptions about what someone with a disability was able to achieve. Since then, I’m glad to say, those preconceptions have been shattered. Each club I’m ‘wowed and proud’ of at least one club member who has learnt to ride a bike, or achieved something they thought they never could, no matter how small.

One girl with cerebral palsy is in a wheelchair and can’t walk independently. On club day she can sit in the recumbent, use her legs to pedal and control the brakes easily. For this moment she is in full control, the wind in her face. She is independent. She is free. A big smile comes on her face, not just because of the exhilaration of riding, but because she knows she’s achieved something she thought was not possible – she can ride a bike. Every club day there are more of these stories.

And during the Paralympics we will see this on a bigger scale. Every athlete has their story. How along their journey they’ve battled against the odds. How their disability is not only part of who they are, but has made them who they are. How they will show the world their strength, their courage and that they can achieve greatness.

We’re on the edge of something amazing because never before in Great Britain has paralympic and disability sport been given such a huge platform. I hope it will inspire those with any disability to take part in sport. There are clubs, organisations and charities out there at grass roots level waiting and we need more. We need help and funding to keep these clubs running and to start new ones, no matter how small. We need to give future generations of those with disabilities the tools to help them participate, enjoy and excel in sport.

Over the Paralympics 2012 and beyond, I hope Great Britain and the world will embrace disability.
Let the Games begin!

For more information:

To support year round community sport for people with learning disabilities: