Disability and Sport

I was recently at the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park for the Disability Innovation Summit hosted by the Global Disability Innovation Hub. The event was inspiring, and so was the location. It got me thinking about disability and sport…

The summit coincided with the 2017 World Para Athletics Championships and in our hotel was the Team GB para athletes along with the Swiss and German teams. The great thing about a sport is that people are judged for what they can do not what they can’t. If only it was the same in schools and at work.

A while back I was fortunate to hear Paralympic Gold medalist Marc Woods talk. At the end of an amazing talk, there was the usual “does anyone have any questions” followed by a typically British reserved silence. So Marc offered to share his favourite question that he gets asked. He said that kids ask the best questions as they do not self-censor. In schools, the question he always gets asked is “what is it like to be disabled?”.

Marc’s response is “How many of you have an Olympic Gold medal?” to which the answer is a predictable zero. So he poses the question is he a less able swimmer than anyone in the audience?

The underlying thought is: does a condition disable someone or is it the environment (work, school, social norms, rules of the game) that disables?

I’ve never really been big into sport. My dyspraxic clumsiness and lack of coordination combined with a competitive streak can make participating in some sports frustrating. My dismal memory means all the sports related chat about best times, biggest goal scorers, the winners of this that or the other cup in 1972 leaves me feeling left out.

Having said that in my youth I had a great time playing junior rugby where my determination was more of an asset than my ability. I love the therapeutic nature of cycling – a time to unplug, unwind and enjoy some amazing scenery. I can’t say I love running but it does offer a personal challenge and when out on trails a chance to see the countryside.

I like challenging myself and that has resulted in me recently being interested in triathlon. I blame Audible/Chrissie Wellington. I am a dreadful swimmer so my first super sprint tri was a big step for me. I did not win any medals but I had a great time and the training leading up to it got me in good shape.

I have even joined a triathlon club where my lack of coordination and dreadful attempts to propel myself in the water means the coaches are being challenged as much as I am! But I am slowly getting better and more importantly, I am the only one I need to beat. I must say the swim coaches have an amazing bag of tricks to try and improve various aspects of my swim stroke.

It is great to hear that there is an inclusive accessible fun run taking place in the Olympic Park in September. Parallel London is hosting a fun run/walk/push with distances from 100m to 10km. There is also a super sensory 1km where participants can complete a course full of multi-sensory experiences, from sound and smell to textures and colour. To top it all off there is even a free family festival. Why not sign up, challenge yourself and then enjoy the festival with your family?

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