WheelPower, the national charity for wheelchair sport, recently welcomed 136newly paralysed men and women representing 15 spinal injury units from across the United Kingdom and Ireland to the 32nd Inter Spinal Unit Games at Stoke Mandeville Stadium from 9-11 April 2019.
Some had never played sports before, and each person had a different story to share as to how they became paralysed, yet all were willing to give the 26 different sports and physical activity sessions a try, before entering competition sports between the Spinal Unit teams. The flagship event finally culminated in a gala dinner and awards ceremony for all the participants, sports leaders and supporters of the event to celebrate the achievements and effort of all the participants and winners.
The participants received expert coaching and demonstrations from leading wheelchair sports athletes and experienced coaches. ‘Have-a-Go’ sporting activities included: wheelchair basketball, athletics, wheelchair badminton, wheelchair fencing, handigolf, archery, boccia, wheelchair rugby, shooting, cue sports, powerlifting and for the first time adapted and wheelchair yoga.
Chris Keogh, the amateur footballer who became paralysed after dislocating his neck playing the sport he loves, took part in the Games.
“It’s been going very well, it has been great to try out all the different sports, it’s been absolutely fantastic. Since I had my injury I haven’t really been involved in too much and this has been a great week to try out everything that I didn’t even think was possible to do in a wheelchair, including wheelchair fencing, which I didn’t even know existed 12 months ago! It’s been absolutely great to be in an environment where people are in a very similar situation to me where they’ve just been under a year injured, it’s been fantastic and I have made lots of new friends, so I’ve really enjoyed it”, comments Chris.
Chris was scheduled to begin a new job at Price Waterhouse Cooper just after his accident.
‘I got a lot of nice messages from the football community like Jose Mourinho, Eden Hazard, Michael Owen and Javi Hernandez, and now I’m back home living with my fiancé and doing two days a week at work with PWC (Price Waterhouse Cooper). I had the accident two days before I was due to start my new job and they have been fantastic, they were in contact with me when I was in intensive care and said whatever happens there’s a job waiting for me, when I was ready and they had their own internal doctors give me a look over, they’ve been absolutely fantastic’. Chris continues.
Chris’ message to other people out there with a spinal cord injury is encouraging.
‘Get here, 100 per cent, don’t miss it. It is a great opportunity to get into sports, there are so many sports to try and I’m sure you will love one of them, it might be something unexpected like table tennis, (laughs) I didn’t think I was going to be this good at table tennis but I’ve really enjoyed it (Chris later won a 1st place award for table tennis). I couldn’t recommend the Games highly enough to anyone, I think it’s a fantastic event and I would definitely encourage everyone to come to try it out’.
WheelPower’s Chief Executive, Martin McElhatton is pleased that the charity, through generous support from donors and sponsors, was able to host another successful Inter Spinal Unit Games, where participants like Chris Keogh were able to enjoy the incredible benefits of taking part in wheelchair sport.
“At WheelPower our aim is to transform lives through sport and it is encouraging to see that, once again, all the participants thoroughly enjoyed the opportunity to try a wide variety of sports and activities at this year’s Inter Spinal Unit Games,”
“The patients with spinal cord injuries have discovered first-hand what they are able to achieve in terms of sports participation and leading an active life after injury. WheelPowerwant all of the participants to return home from the Games full of confidence and with the desire to continue playing sport and being active. WheelPower will continue to support them to find an activity they love in their local area or a pathway into sport.”
Pasan Kularatne, Head of Sport and Physical Activity comments:
“Sport has incredible physical and mental benefits to people who have experienced a life changing spinal cord injury. At WheelPower we offer an opportunity through the Inter Spinal Unit Games for participants to find a sport or activity which suits them and can help them see a positive future with sport as part of their new life. Our ongoing programme to support people with spinal injuries supports them during their rehabilitation and in the future.”