Paraplegic Sport

I believe that I am very luck to have had my accident in the UK and spent 9 months in Stoke Manderville Hospital the home of Paraplegic and Physically disabled sport.

Check out this link that tells you a bit of the history of Stoke Mandeville.

After my accident on the 24th May 1967 I spent the first week in the Royal Infirmary of Edinburgh then got flown down to Stoke Mandeville Spinal Unit.

I spent the first 3 months in bed, being turned every 3 hours so not to get pressure sores/ulcers. If you not sure what these are I suggest you Google pressure ulcers and click on images. But NOT if you get squeamish!!!

After 3 months I was allowed to get up and use a wheelchair. The first day was for about 30 seconds. There was a risk that I could pass out after having been prone for so long.
Gradually the length of time was extended.

When I was able to stay up for a longer period I was taken to the archery hall and was introduced to archery and then table tennis. In due course I was taken to the swimming pool and re-learnt to swim.

I left the hospital in February 1968 and continued to partake in sport, joining a local club for disabled.

It is funny that the school I went to did not think that I could play any sport and initially had me looking after other students watches etc. when they where playing football or track and field. Although I was allowed to rake the long jump pit and even time the track events!!

Eventually our PE teacher realised that I was keen to actively compete and besides swimming I started to throw a discus and shot put. In those days our wheelchairs were not strapped down so the distances were not that great.

Through the club for disabled I continued with my archery, table tennis, swimming, track and field.

In those days due to the level that I had broken my back, T5, it was believed that I could only do 60 yards sprints. Now there is restrictions to distance.

I regularly competed in the National Disabled Games held at Stoke Mandeville until I emigrated to NZ in December 1974.

When I arrived in Dunedin I met Father Leo Close, Graeme Marett and Bill Lean who were members of the Dunedin Branch of the New Zealand Paraplegic and Physically Disabled Association (now known as ParaFed Otago). These three, all paraplegics, where instrumental in the establishment of organised sport for disabled athletes.

Along with Leo, Graeme and Bill I also met and trained with Rob Porter and Phil Read, both tetraplegic. All these guys were really inspirational as in those days (pre ACC) you had to go to work to survive.

In 1964, Graeme and Bill met Fr Close, an Irish priest who arrived in New Zealand after competing at the 1964 Tokyo Olympics. They became firm friends and the following year helped establish the Paraplegic and Physically Disabled Association of Otago and Southland. This was effectively the beginning of paraplegic sport in New Zealand.

I first represented NZ in paraplegic sport in the FESPIC (Far Eastern and Southern Pacific Island Countries) games in Sydney 1977.

I came home with swimming gold and a bronze for table tennis.

My next International trip was in 1979 to Perth again bringing home medals for swimming and table tennis. There I witnessed guys in wheelchairs doing a marathon so decided to train up one.

In July 1980 I was the first paraplegic in NZ to complete a marathon, the Road the Harbour in Dunedin. My time was 4 hours 16 minutes. My second marathon later in the year, Riverton to Invercargill saw me do a time of 3 hours 34 minutes. In those days the wheelchairs where not as modified as todays track chairs.

I continue to be involved with sport and regularly play table tennis and have my sight on representing NZ in table tennis. Watch this space!

Leave a Reply