I’ve begun looking for new and exciting things to do in my spare time.
The Inter Spinal Unit Games!
I got a call last minute asking if I would like to go down to Stoke Mandeville for the ‘spinal games’. It sounded exciting so a few days later I found myself in sunny Bucks staring warily at the cattle barn style dormitory in the Olympic Lodge next to the stadium - the birthplace of the Paralympics!
I had no idea what to expect but the idea of the event was to get newly injured people from the spinal units around the UK together to try out sports then take part in mini competitions. I went down there with some of the people I was in Sheffield spinal unit with. They definitely seemed intent on having a good time as we cracked open the first of many beers on evening number one.
The first game I tried was bowls… I had my doubts about how fun I would find this but after a couple of goes I realised how much thought actually had to go into it. It was well difficult ‘cos the bowls curved so much but it was quite good to actually be doing something. I competed in this and I was pretty crap but I did enjoy it and I liked the crazy looking chairs the professionals used.
I was much more psyched by the idea of hand cycling so at the track I ‘jumped’ into the smallest hand cycle that turned out to be too big for me… this unfortunately mattered so after shoving jumpers down my back to get me closer to the handles and strapping my hands on I kind of got going… in a wonky line! This also turned out to be well ‘ard! BUT it was great to feel ‘the burn’ in my shoulders and arms again from exercise that wasn’t just pushing my chair and I’d like to try again in a more suitably sized cycle.
I’ve always quite enjoyed ping-pong and this enjoyment hasn’t stopped since being on wheels. I won’t lie it is much tougher with a bat strapped to your hand but even with balls flying everywhere I wasn’t about to stop… I mean, I wasn’t the one having to pick them up, haha! I like the satisfaction of a good rally (which was even more rewarding when they’re few and far between). So yeah, I competed in that and lost again, however it is A LOT harder when the person you’re against can hold the bat!
Wheelchair rugby was the sport I was really keen on trying as I’d watched quite a bit already and liked the buzz of the game. I ‘levitated’ into one of the battering ram style chairs (a defender chair) and taped gardening gloves on my hands (yes, they use gardening gloves to grip/push/protect) and I was ready to play. Being a defender meant my job was to barge attackers and hook the front prongs of metal on my chair around the attacker’s chairs to stop them moving and scoring. It’s a pretty simple game but really fun and quite shattering if you’re not used to it! I can see how it’ll make me strong! I fully intend on getting involved more with this when I’m set up at university.
I also played and watched lots of other sports including shooting, athletics, tennis, archery, basketball, swimming and fencing. In the midst of the ‘serious’ competitions we had a great time. Many late nights were had, lots of beer was consumed, friends were made and all the ‘Sheffield team’ got back exhausted!
I thoroughly enjoyed my week and after trying and watching so many different sports from my new position in a chair and finding all of them pretty hard I developed even more respect for people who have got good at these sports and overcome problems that you’d of thought would of stopped someone excelling. It makes you realise that really (almost) anything is possible and there’s nearly always a way round things.
Since being back a friend bought me a flight in micralite plane and I watched some paragliding, which was cool. I’ve now booked a paragliding course with a world class ‘paraglider’ in the Lake District. Hopefully this will be amazing! Motivation for this came from another awesome ‘paraglider’ – Judy Leden – who talked to me about how it could work. You sit in a crazy buggy thing to do it! Something else to look forward to doing straight after I’ve finished a week of sailing!