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'spORT IS A GREAT WAY OF SHOWING THE POSITIVES OF DISABILITY' 

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Kadeena Cox
21 October 2015 


In para-athletics there is a classification system, which separates athletes according to their disabilities.

Ahead of the IPC Athletics World Championships in Doha, which gets underway on 22 October, we caught up with a few of the athletes in the team to give an insight into their respective impairments. 

 

KADEENA COX – T37 100m, 200m & 4x100m

The T37 class is for ambulant athletes who have cerebral palsy or other neurological impairments displaying similar movement patterns (e.g. stroke, brain injury)

I have multiple sclerosis - I had an MS lesion or a stroke, which affected the right side of my body and then had a lesion which affected my spine at C3. From that, I have weakness and dystonia down my right side and sensation misfires meaning it doesn’t work that well.

Everything is a bit slower because the signals don’t go as fast. My right side doesn’t move that well, so my hips are in the wrong position so I can’t control the movement. My right arm goes into spasm so it doesn’t move when I’m running, which makes it pretty redundant.

I’m heat intolerant, so the heat makes my spasms worse. I’m doing more walking than normal (in Doha) so my tone is really high and quite hard to manage.

We have used lots of different techniques to try and counteract the heat. The main ones which have worked are the ice vest and fans as well as having acupuncture to help with the tone.

Most of my body doesn’t deal with extreme heat and cold, so if you put ice on my arm or my leg, it goes into spasm. It’s just about finding what works well for me.


TONY MILLS – T44 long jump

The T44 class is for single below the knee amputees or other physical impairments that allows similar movement.

I am a below the knee amputee on my right side which basically means I swim in circles, but my sock washing is halved! Generally I just get on with life.

For me, stump care is really important and trying to balance how much time I have on the leg and off the leg. As I’ve got quite a short residual limb under my knee, there’s quite a small surface area that gets a lot of impact. It’s about keeping on top of that – keeping infected hair follicles and sores to a minimum really because there’s a lot going on in the socket when I am jumping. For me that’s the main concern.

Also important is managing the sweating that happens inside the sleeve because the last thing you want when you’re running and jumping is the leg coming off.

When your leg gets sore, just resting so there’s that balance between that and training. If you stump is so sore you can’t wear your leg or your blade, you can’t do anything.

There’s a one way valve system, so when you push your leg in to the socket the air is dispelled and it keeps it vacuumed. Everyone favours different valves – my one originally kept getting packed full of sand, when I was landing and getting out of the pit which meant that I was having to clear it out between jumps. It was taking more time clearing out than giving me time to think about what I was doing between jumps. We’ve just changed the whole set up and it works just as efficiently, but I don’t have to worry about the sand.

 

ZAC SHAW - T13

The T13 class is for athletes with a visual impairment but do not compete with the assistance of a guide runner.

I have a condition called Stargardt disease which is very rare. My parents had the same gene which was passed down to me. I was born with the condition but my sight only started to deteriorate when I was nine years old. I was only diagnosed at 13 because the condition only affects one in 10,000. My sight has been at a relatively constant level since the age of 14 and is not likely to get worse as long as I look after myself (not exposing himself to excess sunlight, smoking and drinking etc.)

The T13 class is the least impaired of the visually impaired classes and we don’t need a guide runner. My central vision is affected but my peripheral vision is average. So what someone with 20:20 vision can see from 60m, I can only see from three metres.

It’s always difficult to see if someone is in your lane during training, so that’s why I need someone there to make sure it’s all clear. In terms of day-to-day life, the UV rays can make my vision deteriorate, so I’ve got to make sure I have UV protected sunglasses on. Sometimes it takes a while for my pupils to adjust, which makes it difficult in the summer going from indoors to outdoors.

My vision is marginally better at night time, but that can be a downside, because there are a lot of lights, so there’s never an easy condition, it’s about finding ways to cope and get around it.

It affects me during day-to-day life but I try to put it behind me when I run and focus on getting to the line as quick as possible. Sport is a great way to show the positives of disability rather than the negatives.

 

MEL NICHOLLS T34

The T34 class is for athletes with cerebral palsy or other neurological impairments that allow similar movements. Athletes in this class compete in a wheelchair.

I’ve had multiple strokes, which has left me hemiplegic. The first two affected me more cognitively and probably recovered 75% and I was still walking, but the last stroke affected my mobility more. Although they all affected my left side, the most recent one has taken my balance. My balance is pulled towards the right, so I’ve got both sides affected. My short term memory is shocking and processing of getting words out is difficult too. Fatigue is an issue and general motion and balance can get affected quite easily with various triggers. Because I’m very right sided, everything is done from the right and although the left arm goes with the right, it won’t go on its own. The right always leads so when it comes to racing, the right controls and left shadows but not powering through. Straight lines are quite difficult!

For me short distances are definitely the hardest because of the starts and power off the line and that’s why I tend to be slower off the mark than my competitors. I have to set my chair up so the compensator is set to the right and physically move my chair to the right, so when I start using the power of my right I should end up in a straight line. It’s a good job we go left around the track because my outside arm is my strongest arm so that’s better for me.

I’m better over distance because when I get going and the arm is following, I can go on for however long I need to. It’s the first few pushes that are very erratic getting the signals from the brain and the timing isn’t very fluid to begin with.

I’m the Forest Gump of T34 racing, I just keep going!