Video: Paralympians recapture the spirit of London 2012 at Olympic Park

Swimmers were among the athletes who competed to celebrate National Paralympic Day

Swimmers were among the athletes who competed to celebrate National Paralympic Day - Credit: Archant

The spirit and wonder of the Paralympics returned to the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park to celebrate National Paralympic Day on Saturday.

Wheelchair basketball proved popular

Wheelchair basketball proved popular - Credit: Archant

The spirit and wonder of the Paralympics returned to the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park to celebrate National Paralympic Day on Saturday.

Paralympians wowed spectators with their swimming, goalball, boccia and wheelchair basketball prowess as the Copper Box arena and the London Aquatics Centre played host to the world’s best almost exactly two years to the day since the Paralympic opening ceremony.

Visitors, who included the Earl of Wessex, had the opportunity to try out a wide range of paralympic sports for themselves, from sitting volleyball and tennis to wheelchair fencing and seated exercise classes.

The sporting action ran in conjunction with the Mayor of London’s Liberty Festival, the annual showcase of deaf and disabled artists.

Swimmers competed in the national Paralympic Day celebrations

Swimmers competed in the national Paralympic Day celebrations - Credit: Archant

For some of the athletes it was a dream come true to be playing at an Olympic venue, including goalball athlete Laura Perry who only discovered the sport through London 2012.

“I never thought after losing my vision that I would be in this kind of environment. I am just really proud to be here and part of the team,” she said.

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“It is great for people like us to show that we might have a disability but we are pretty damn good at sport and come and watch and enjoy it with us.”

Track and field paralympian Stef Reid, who won a silver medal in the Long Jump at London 2012, described her memories of the home games at a Q&A session and explained why celebrating National Paralympic Day is vital in changing attitudes.

“For me, events like this are so important and so special because it just proves that 2012 wasn’t a one-off event,” she said. “As a country, as a nation, we are committed to carrying this forward.

“Every sport is so much fun and it really is for everybody – you don’t have to be disabled to enjoy it.”

The celebrations proved motivational for disabled people who attended, many of whom travelled for hours to be part of them.

Kieron Elward, 12, from South Wales, was invited with his swimming team and said it was “inspiring” to be able to try out sports like basketball and football.

Gemma Hodgson, 28, from Cambridgeshire, was visiting for the first time after being registered as disabled after being diagnosed with Ehlers Danlos Syndrome, which means her joints are easily dislocated.

As a fitness and dance instructor, she wanted to find out what else is available to her now.

“It has been hard for me as I used to play tennis and netball, as well as the dancing and I am having to adapt to being in a wheelchair,” she explained. “I have tried out wheelchair tennis and I watched some of the boccia and goalball.”

Belinda West, from Plaistow, is well aware of the hard work and passion behind every Paralympic medal as her sister Kelly Gallagher won Paralympic GB’s first ever gold at the Winter Games in Sochi earlier this year.

Belinda, who went to the event with her son Dexter, four, said: “Events like this get people aware that there are people that are disabled that can do thing better than able-bodied people and that they’ve got guts and determination.”

Celebrations to mark National Paralympic Day were staged simultaneously across the country, with events in Birmingham, Leeds and Liverpool.

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