RNIB’s Insight magazine, which I believe is mainly read by parents and those in the education sector recently ran a competition. Every year they advertise for a young columnist with a £50 prize and the opportunity to write four columns for the magazine. This year I decided to enter, I have a feeling that they have raised the age limit to twenty-five, as I am pretty sure I would have entered previously. I had an assignment due the day before the deadline, so I didn’t have much time to write a good piece. The 425 word limit was a killer. They said write about something you’re passionate about so I did! I’m fairly certain I am not what they are looking for though, but all entries will be posted on their website. Here is my entry...
This summer, we were all dazzled by the London 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games. In a 288 strong Paralympics GB Team, 41 athletes had a visual impairment and competed across 7 sports: athletics, swimming, cycling, judo, football, goalball and rowing. The motto of the ‘greatest’ games ever was to ‘inspire a generation’!
I’m Selina, 24 from Leicester and proud to be Europe’s No.2 T11 100m sprinter. I have a rare genetic eye condition called Norrie’s Disease and whilst I had good partial vision when I was younger, it gradually deteriorated, so since the age of 18 I have just had light perception. Despite training for years and being ranked highly in Europe, I was not selected for my dream games, but can honestly say I still found them amazing!
I was lucky enough to attend the first morning of athletics at the Olympics and watched 3 mornings of the Paralympic athletics live in the stadium. I was also privileged to have had the opportunity to race against the best in the world on the track back in May at the Paralympic Test event. I know all of these experiences have inspired me to continue in my sport, but I fear that visually impaired participation will not increase.
I attended mainstream school until after my A Levels and then spent a year at the Royal National College for the Blind (RNC). In both, mainstream and specialist education, I had mostly negative sporting experiences.
At primary school I volunteered myself for the cross-country team and remember falling over in my first race. This would have deterred most 7 year olds, but thereafter the school got a Year 6 boy to run alongside me, which worked well. At secondary school where my sight was more limited, I recall feeling embarrassed when I couldn’t hit a tennis ball back over the net and ran around with a hockey stick with no purpose. Eventually I stopped doing PE altogether. At RNC, I was able to use the gym, but there were no opportunities to participate in Paralympic sport other than goalball and football if you were male.
If visually impaired children are subjected to these negative encounters then it is unlikely that they will want to pursue sport even for fun, or perhaps they are inspired by the games, but are never presented with an opportunity to try Paralympic sport.
Now the London 2012 Games have done the inspiring, I hope the education sector can do the implementing!
Sport doesn’t care who you are, anyone can take part!