Credit: Anthony Hayton

Challenges Like This Bring Our Communities Together

It’s only a week since I posted my last blog but a lot has happened in that time. As a nation we have quite rightly moved into ‘lockdown’ as along with the rest of the world we try to minimise the spread and impact of coronavirus.  Suddenly lots of those things which we thought important became less important as we focus on the health and well-being of our loved ones, appreciate all of those NHS workers who care for us all whilst putting themselves at risk and think about the impact for those who are struggling without an income and who may lose their jobs. It really is a time where we want to retreat to our families and friends and be in the safety of our communities and yet even that is difficult with the restrictions which mean we are largely housebound.

IPC President Andrew Parsons (credit: Ralf Kuckuck)

The big news this week was the announcement of the postponement of the Tokyo 2020 Olympic and Paralympic Games. I think most people probably thought that this was an inevitability and wondered why it took so long for this decision to be made, but it is always easy to be critical when that decision is not yours to make and there will have been many complications and issues to resolve before making such an enormous call. Ultimately however the rapid global spread of coronavirus meant that this was the only logical outcome in order to protect the health and well-being of all involved in preparing for the Games. The decision has largely been welcomed by athletes who increasing were worried about their own health and that of their families and in a practical sense were unable to maintain their Games preparation as training and competition became impossible. To put things into perspective it was humbling to hear the words of Sara Morganti who is the Italian athlete representative on the IPC. She expressed the fears of the Italian people and said that Italian athletes were not worried about training regimes and isolation but concerned about getting through each day with COVID-19 in their communities. Training was the last thing on their mind. The IPC Athletes’ Council Chairperson Chelsey Gotel’s words are powerful and worth reflecting on; she commented:

‘When the postponement came on Tuesday, for many athletes the relief outweighed the disappointment. The positivity and resilience from our community made me proud to be a Paralympian. Yes 2020 plans are now on hold and we are all rapidly adapting to a changed world but challenges like this are what brings the Paralympic movement together. Now more than ever this is a time to step up and be the influential role models that we already are. Paralympic life is about being adaptive. It is about remaining firmly planted in our tracks as we stare down inconceivable obstacles. It is about finding creative solutions, and it is about rising above to accomplish incredible things.’

Credit: Anthony Hayton Photography

The resilience of the wheelchair rugby community with its determination to hit challenges ‘head on’ has always made me incredibly proud to play a small part in our sport. I know that despite the current ‘lockdown’ and with it our inability to come together to play, we will come through this and will be eager to get back into our clubs to train and compete. As a team we are working to develop our plans and preparations for when the current restrictions are lifted so that we can support the delivery of early activity and competition across all the disciplines of our sport. We want to be in a position to celebrate the lifting of restrictions with a feast of wheelchair rugby activity which brings our community together again. I am also already working with Head Coach Paul Shaw and Team Manager Lee to put together a new GB programme and to find ways of funding it which will ensure we are at our peak again for whenever the Games take place in 2021.

GB’s Gavin Walker will be giving tips on exercising at home (credit: Megumi Masuda)

In the meantime for both body and mind it is important to try and stay active. We have now uploaded adaptive yoga exercises onto our website courtesy of WheelPower, and have produced a series of Home Skills videos with Talent Coach Danny Dawoud. Later today we will also upload the first of our wheelchair rugby specific exercises which feature Leicester Tigers and GB athletes Jamie Stead and Gavin Walker, so hopefully these will give you a little inspiration. And for those of us who are able bodied there is always Joe Wicks at 9am each morning – his exercises are already testing me as I try to match the same number of jumps, crunches, press-ups as my 11 year old twins! And finally, I hope that you and your families are able to avoid the virus and stay fit and healthy. Remember that if you have any concerns or worries there is a network of support available. Do contact your RDO or Lauren or myself if we can help in any way. Also a number of our Board members have volunteered to be on the end of a phone just to be available to support any of you who may welcome that. Do contact me or Daniel and we can link you up.

David Pond