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Wheels: Journeys in Parlympic Sport

James Moore
8185239130 b1752d6a22 z Wheels: Journeys in Parlympic Sport

Image courtesy of US Navy

The World Cup? Pfah. The most exciting sporting event for me is that the Frenford Falcons Wheelchair Basketball Club is getting new chairs.

I have to be careful not to think about this in public because it makes me drool, and that doesn’t go down terribly well in polite company.

How to describe this to an able-bodied sports player? Think how you’d feel playing tennis or squash with a wooden racket.

Now, if you love the sport, and have enough ability to hold your own in a competitive situation then you can put up with such an … I’d be tempted to write handicap here, but funnily enough I’ve learned to dislike that word rather intensely. So let’s say impediment.

But the prospect of getting something a little bit better would be enticing, no?

I remember when I started playing squash with a wooden racket as a teenager. I loved the game (still do, anyone know of a way to play it with legs that are no longer fit for purpose?) but when I upgraded to a racket made of a more advanced material my game rapidly underwent a step change. As did my enjoyment of it.

I’m hoping for something similar as regards basketball. That’s not to trash our current chairs. They’re fine as far as they go. Getting in one and firing it around a court is still a thrill. My physical difficulties melt away.

All the same, the chairs I’ve been using are rather past their best. The wheels, for example, have a nasty habit of slipping just when I don’t want them to.

Trying to compete with someone who has their chair specially fitted for their needs is always going to be tough. But using our current chairs, well, it’s rather like taking a wooden tennis racket to a match against someone armed with one of the better composite affairs.

So it is with a great deal of anticipation that I’m awaiting the arrival of the new kit. Given the price of the things, this isn’t going to be a regular occurrence. A good tennis racket will set you back something north of £100. Just one decent wheel for a sports chair will set you back two-and-a-half times that (not including VAT).

Disability sport doesn’t come cheap, and would be all but impossible were it not for grants and charities.

Or in my case, lawyers. At some point I should be able to get a chair of my own, as part of rehabbing from the accident that caused me to take up disability sport in the first place. When it arrives it’ll feel like Christmas time. Can’t wait.

There are, of course, some disability sports that don’t require sophisticated contraptions to play. So here’s a reminder that there’s a sitting volleyball taster session at Romford YMCA on Monday June 30. You don’t need to be disabled to play. On Thursday July 3 at 7pm they have wheelchair dancing on offer. Given that I had all the grace of a beached porpoise when able bodied, I may pass on that one.

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