Paralympics Fever Rises

With the Paralympics Opening ceremony tonight and the Games tomorrow I was delighted that Staffordshire hosted two of the four Flame celebration events over the weekend.

Flame Ambassador: Dan Hopwood – an ex-Paratrooper paralysed below the waist following a motorcycle accident, paddled the Paralympic Flame down Trentham Lake to kick start The Trentham Estate celebration.  Dan is now a world champion paracanoeist.

Dan was joined on the day by Flame Ambassador: John Court from Stafford.  John who helped to organize the Trentham event is a former Olympic slalom canoeist.  He is now a leading champion, coach and fund raiser for canoeing, particularly for the disabled, and helped establish the Trentham Watersports Association. Over 100 young people with disabilities turned out to take part in a range of sports over the day. We should all give thanks to John for all his hard work.

Olivia Wilson, aged 14 also did the honours for us as the Flame Ambassador at the Cannock event. Olivia, a student at Cannock Chase High School is a blind show jumper who has been tipped as a future Paralympian. She took up horse-riding when she was 10 and two years ago won the ‘totally visually impaired’ section of the RDA (Riding for the Disabled Association) national championships, her very first competition. Well done to Olivia, and I am sure we will be watching out for her in future Paralympics. Thanks are also due to our highways crews who helped to manage a few road closures during the procession of the Flame to Cannock Park.

Finally on the Paralympics, I am sure you will join me in wishing good luck to all our local athletes taking part in the Games over the next few weeks.

Equestrian rider Lee Pearson CBE, 38 is from Cheddleton in Staffordshire and has won an impressive 9 gold medals in the last three Paralympic Games, 3 in Sydney in 2000, 3 in Athens in 2004 and 3 at Beijing in 2008 Pearson completed his hat-trick of three gold medals in successive Games, triumphing once more in the Mixed, Mixed Freestyle and Mixed Team events.

Jessica Luke, who is visually impaired lives in Stafford and has been playing Goalball since the age of 11, now aged 24, I wish her and the rest of the team the best of luck in their first match against China.

Richard Dobell, 45 was born in Biddulph in Staffordshire and was hugely successful playing standing volleyball before his impairment, he now plays in the sitting volleyball and I hope his success continues.

We were honoured to host representatives from Bremen in Germany for the 50th anniversary of our joint friendship over the last few weeks.  The young people who came to clean the Cannock war graves took part in some moving tributes to the fallen on both sides in the true spirit of reconciliation.

Also some sad news over the weekend with the death of Neil Armstrong, first man to set foot on the Moon, and a very moving statement from his family.  A true legend in my eyes.

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