By Phoebe Thomson, 2K Plus International Sports Media
With Oscar Pistorius’ shocking defeat in the men’s T44 200 metre race on Sunday night came an upsurge of interest in the technical side of the Paralympics, namely – do longer blades give the runner an advantage? Although Pistorius has always insisted that changing blades will not affect an athlete’s performance, what is evident is that the Paralympics – more so than the Olympics – is technology driven; the athletes rely on state of the art equipment to enable them to perform to the best of their ability.
With this in mind, it is perhaps shocking to hear that many Paralympians do not have access to the essential equipment that they need, or the funds to buy it. Through the Roof, a Christian organisation which donates wheelchairs and equipment to disabled people all around the world, has based itself in St John’s Church – right next to the Olympic park – to give away wheelchairs to Paralympians who need them.
Glenda Pike, one of the organisers, told me that, ‘We were made aware that many of the athletes coming here didn’t have wheelchairs back in their own countries, so were asked if we could provide some to the Paralympians and coaches. There are just so many people who don’t have wheelchairs in the world, and a lot of them have come here, many of whom borrowed them for the games.’
During my visit, Harouna Osumane, President of the Paralympic Committee in Niger, was having his wheelchair fixed. He explained that, ‘We are here following a visit from Through the Roof, who came to see us in the Olympic village. They came to ask us about our needs, and saw that our wheelchairs are very old. So they decided to organise this donation, so that we could be given good wheelchairs, and can go about our daily lives and practice our sport in good condition. It’s very good because it makes my everyday life much easier.’