Sporting legend shares her memories of Tokyo paralympics at kids’ sports camp

Former British Paralympic star Sally Haynes shared her poignant memories of competing in the 1964 Tokyo games as she backed a new junior sports camp this weekend.

Saturday was a special day for more than 30 disabled youngsters when they took part in a junior sports camp hosted by Wheelpower at Stoke Mandeville Stadium, but it was also special in the memory of Sally Haynes MBE – because it was 50 years to the day that the Paralympic Games were launched in Tokyo.

Sally Haynes MBE at Stoke Mandeville Stadium ahead of Wheelpower's junior sports camp

Sally Haynes MBE at Stoke Mandeville Stadium ahead of Wheelpower's junior sports camp

Aylesbury-born Sally, now 73, flew out to the Japanese capital to compete and has vivid memories of her time there as well as how it helped boost the popularity of disabled sports.

At that time in the mid-sixties, Sally said the national media shyed away from reporting on wheelchair sports.

She recalls how Dr Ludwig Guttmann – the Stoke Mandeville neurologist who founded the Paralympic Games – encouraged the competitors to get out onto the streets in their wheelchairs.

She said: “At that time in Japan, a person in a wheelchair wasn’t seen on the streets. He encouraged us to go out shopping so we could be seen out in the community.

“We wanted to show them we lived normal lives and that we didn’t have to be kept in nursing homes,”

Sally – who is vice president for wheelchair sports charity Wheelpower – supported Saturday’s junior camp where more than 30 disabled youngsters tried their hand at cricket, powerlifting, shooting and wheelchair basketball at Stoke Mandeville Stadium – the birthplace of the Paralympics.

The Winslow resident said it was important for youngsters to find their ‘niche’ talent, as she revealed there were not the same opportunities for potential wheelchair athletes that there are today.

Sally – who was broke her back in a point-to-point horse riding accident – was only 19 when she represented Britain at the first Paralympic Games in Rome in 1960.

She went on to compete at three more games, winning a total of four medals. These included two golds – one for fencing in 1968 in Tel Aviv and the other for table tennis four years later in Heidelberg.

She was later given an MBE by the Queen for her charitable work.

Wheelpower’s sport development officer and organiser of the junior sports camp Stewart Jeeves said: “Our junior sport programme enables participants to find a sport they love and develop their skills with like-minded people under the guidance of some of the most experienced coaches in wheelchair sport.

“Many of the youngsters have aims to reach the top level in their chosen sport; others simply enjoy taking part and competing in the fun activities.”

For more, visit the Wheelpower website here.