With the Olympic Games and Paralympics only months away, Hussein Al-Alak introduces some of the key competitors of the Paralympics.
I was recently inspired by an article in a national newspaper, which detailed how a 7/7 bomb blast survivor, who lost her legs in one of the London tube blasts has defied the odds, to represent Great Britain as a member of the volleyball team at the 2012 paralympics. Martine Wright, 39, was on a Circle Line Tube train when Al-Qaeda terrorist Shehzad Tanweer detonated his bomb, just outside Aldgate Station on July 7th, 2005.
On the day of the bombings, Martine was running late for work and didn't reach her usual tube carriage in time, so jumped onto a closer one just as the door closed. Moments later, the carriage exploded into chaos as a white light flashed and she felt herself being thrown. When Wright looked up, she saw a trainer that had been blown off her foot in the blast and skewered on a piece of metal. When she was taken to hospital her body had swollen to twice its normal size so her brother and sister didn't even recognise her.
Martine learned to walk again with the help of prosthetic legs but admitted it was the hardest thing she ever had to do, emotionally as well as physically. She then married her long-time boyfriend, Nick Wiltshire, and gave birth to Oscar, now two and half years old. But more than anything Martine, who played field hockey at university, wanted to play sports again. She had tried wheelchair tennis, but dropped it because she doesn't like wheelchairs, when she discovered the new sport of sitting volleyball.
Nearly seven years on, Martine is a full-time athlete and will now wear the number 7 on her Team GB vest this summer — in memory of the London bomb victims, which led to 52 deaths. She told the Sun on Sunday: 'If you had told me six years ago, when I was struggling to even sit up in bed, that one day I would be an elite sportswoman about to represent my country at the biggest sporting event on Earth — I would have thought you were off your rocker. 'I feel like I am meant to do this. Some people might only see the negative in what happened to me. But I’m turning it into a positive.'
Another story that also struck a chord, was that of a young Iraqi man who will also be participating in this years years Paralympics. Twenty year-old swimmer Ahmed Kelly was born in Iraq with significant deficiencies in all four limbs and spent the majority of his first seven years in a Baghdad orphanage.
However, in 1998 he met Moira Kelly, from the Children's First Foundation, who adopted Ahmed and his brother Emmanuel – also born with limb deficiencies – and took them to Australia for medical treatment. After undergoing surgery to remove the deformed sections of his lower legs, Ahmed learned to walk with the use of prostheses and, before long, began to run. He subsequently turned his attention to swimming in 2008 and aside from being one of Australia's biggest medal prospects at London 2012, is now among the favourites for gold in his events.
Greg Hartung, President of the Australian Paralympic Committee, believes Ahmed should serve as an inspiration to all who see him compete. "For swimmer Ahmed Kelly, the road to London has been a particularly long one," said Hartung. "After years of operations, rehabilitation and adapting to a new country, he is now the 100 metres breaststroke world record holder in his class and has London firmly in his sights. "Ahmed's ambition and perseverance against the odds resonates with all who hear his story. "Like all our athletes, his readiness to take on the world in Australian colours is inspiring and something I know all Australians will embrace."
According to Channel Four, the official broadcaster for the London 2012 Paralympic Games, the event came about In 1948, at a time of blitzed buildings and post-WWII financial and rationing problems, when London hosted the Olympic Games for the second time. On the opening day of the Games, Buckinghamshire's Stoke Mandeville Hospital - a centre for military casualties with spinal cord injuries - organised a sports competition for 16 British war veterans on the recommendation of forward-thinking medic Sir Ludwig Guttman.
The games were held annually for the next three years until, in 1952, a group of Dutch wartime veterans took part, making it an international event. Eight years later, 400 athletes from 21 countries travelled to Rome on a quest for medals in what was later recognised as the first ever Paralympic Games.