Sport

Paralympic Athlete Explores Historical Para Sport Centre

2012 Paralympian Derek Derenalagi visited the Stoke Mandeville stadium nearly 10 years after the start of his Para Sport career.

A National Paralympic Heritage Team Leader has said “there’s so much more to do” as the Trust prepared for the 10-year-anniversary of the London Paralympic Games.

Vicky Hope-Walker was speaking to Derek Derenalagi, who competed at the Games in 2012 and was visiting the museum at Stoke Mandeville.

The former British soldier became a double amputee in 2007 after an IED explosion in Afganistan.

The National Paralympic Heritage Trust is trying to preserve a wealth of Para Sport history that spans back 70 years.

Since being founded two years ago, the Trust has been gathering and cataloguing stories, historic photographs, films and artefacts of the Paralympic legacy.

Hope-Walker stressed how important history is: “It’s an incredible history and an incredible part of British history.

“More importantly, it is one of our most important kind of disability histories. It’s of national significance.

“It’s a wonderful way to celebrate disability sports and disabled athletes.

“When you take a collection like this out to the public, it challenges perception of disability. It’s capable of breaking down negative barriers.”

Hope-Walker's favourite exhibit is the album of photos from the spinal unit in 1948.

Hope-Walker also discussed the Treasure Trove of items, including a very special photo album that belonged to one of the first photographers at the spinal unit:

“There’s so much more to do. There is still a lot of cataloging to do.

“We still have to capture so many stories and people are very modest. They think their story is not important, but it is.

“It’s building awareness. We are brand new and only really two years old. It’s fundraising to make sure we are sustainable.”

Another member of the Trust’s team is Elaine Phiri. She wants to see more people learning about the history of Para Sport: “In terms of an audience, we have schools that are visiting the centre for their swimming lessons as well as regular gym members or sports clubs.

“Part of our work is to now engage people who wouldn’t normally be coming to the centre. We’ve had a couple of universities who have degree programmes that are very relevant to disability sports and the challengers around disability.

“My favourite object has to be the spade that is within the timeline. The reason is that it reinforces that element of local history and beginnings here at Stoke Mandeville.

“It’s the first spade that was used in digging up what we see at Stoke Mandeville today. It’s a true reminder of the story of where we are.”