Paralympics-Inspiring Paralympic athletes speak of their 2012 fever

As British Paralympic stars compete in the World Cup, one basketball player, who is an amputee, tells Channel 4 News why life is “easier” for him than soldiers who have lost their legs in war zones.

Wheelchair Basketball

More than 240 athletes from 34 countries are competing in this week’s BT Paralympic World Cup, including “blade-runner” Oscar Pistorius.

Behind every person competing lies a story of overcoming adversity: some athletes have had limbs amputated, some have been left disabled following road accidents while others have been born with conditions such as cerebral palsy.

It is the seventh time the annual event, which gives paralympic athletes a rare chance to compete in a multi-sport competition, has been held in Manchester .

With just 463 days to go until the 2012 Paralympic Games in London, British athletes are using it to guage their performance ahead of 2012.

Giles Long is a triple Paralympic champion swimmer who is presenting Channel 4’s coverage of the Paralympic World Cup.

He told Channel 4 News it is a great event for spotting the ones to watch at 2012: “If you’ve been invited to compete then you’re highly ranked in the world and people want to watch you race.

“It’s a massive boost if you can perform well at the Paralympic World Cup going into 2012.”

Paralympic 2012 dream

For the men’s wheelchair basketball team it is a valuable opportunity to train and play together ahead of next year’s Paralympics.

The side lost their opening game against France 68 – 53 on Monday but the players say this is a stepping stone to 2012.

The team took bronze in Beijing and head coach, Australian Murray Treseder, told Channel 4 News the side is capable of another strong run in London: “We’re on track but there are a lot of good teams around and we need to be unbelievably good at the one per cent areas for us to succeed because we don’t have the best physical talent.

“In Beijing we showed we had so many other things that we were world leaders in and that overcame some of those physical disadvantages. We think we can do that again.”

The wheelchair basketball team has a huge range of experience. Simon Munn is hoping to compete in his sixth Paralympics in London while 16-year-old Harry Brown will make his senior GB debut this week.

One of the team’s veterans is Terry Bywater who has competed in three Paralympic Games. He was born with no bones in the lower half of his leg so his parents decided to amputate it when he was just two years old.

Despite the setback Terry told Channel 4 News he feels luckier than many other amputees: “I think it’s fairly easy for me.

“I’ve spoken to many people in the army who have come back after losing their legs and for them it’s going to be totally different to learn how to walk again, it’s a whole new life for them but for me I’ve had it since I was a baby so nothing’s changed.”

As London 2012 edges closer Terry says he “gets goose bumps” at the very mention of the Games: “To play in the Olympics is just unbelievable … but to play in the UK in front of my wife, in front of my baby boy who’s going to be three years old and shouting my name from the stand – you couldn’t ask for anything else.”

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