Paralympic athletes - #Superhumans - compete in a range of classifications, including classes for those in wheelchairs, people with visual impairment, amputees or similar, people of short stature and athletes with other impairments. As Joe Allen (see photo) said to me, if you have a disability, it is easy to classify, the hard part is to qualify and that takes talent, determination and a huge amount of hard work, just like any sport.

These athletes are true athletes in every sense of the word, and have inspired me to put together this collections of photos in collaboration with Yeovil Hospital. The exhibition is to raise awareness of disability sport in a different context – a hospital setting – and by ‘showing off’ these athletes in the same way as you would show athletes without disabilities. The London 2012 Olympics and Channel 4 have done a huge amount to raise the profile of these athletes and sports, but there is so much more to be done.

Be inspired, be surprised, be in awe, watch them all (almost) compete in Rio, and cheer them when they bring back medals!

See end of page for map of venue.

Day 1: David Weir CBE, from Sutton, Surrey. Competing here at the London Anniversary Games 2015.

Known as the Wierwolf, there is little to say about David Weir that has not already been said. David was born with a spinal cord transection that left him unable to use his legs. As possibly the world greatest ever male wheelchair athlete, he has won the London Marathon 6 times, and competed at 4 Olympic Games. In Beijing he won 4 medals – 2 golds, a silver and a bronze, but in London 2012 he won an astonishing four gold medals in the T54 800m 1500m, 5000m and marathon. David said of the London games “I was just thinking of winning, that was the only thing going through my mind.”.

Along with coach Jenny Archer, Weir runs the Weir Archer Academy to increase participation in disability sport and nurture the next generation of Paralympians. I have seen David perform twice and both times he was ill, but still competed even though he didn’t win. Luckily for him, I won’t be watching him from the stadium in Rio! This picture shows his astonishing determination and power.

David will be competing in multiple events in Rio.

Day 2: Holly Neil, from Chantmarle, Dorset. Competing at the Exeter Harriers Open meeting, July 2016.

After joining the Dwarf Sports Association in 2010, Holly linked up with a coach through Yeovil college, and went on to win the World Junior championships for the shot put in her classification. She narrowly missed the London Olympics but by 2013 achieved bronze at the Lyon World Championships in the F40/41 class for the discus. This was matched at the 2016 European championships.

Holly was selected for Rio the day before this photo was taken, and with a huge smile on her face said that says that she is “ready, excited, I have done the world stage but this is the top event – it is scarey!”. I had the pleasure of meeting Holly and taking her photo whilst she was competing at a local club event in Exeter, as part of her preparations for the Paralympics, and my photo is focused on her intense concentration immediately prior to throwing.

Holly will be competing in the discus in Rio.

Day 3: Richard Whitehead MBE, from Nottingham. Competing here at the London Anniversary Games 2015.

Richard, who was born without the lower half of both legs, is current Paralympic and World Champion in the T42 200m. He is an immense athlete, not only sprinting, but running marathons and also having competed at the 2006 Winter Paralympic Games in sledge hockey. I tried to capture his athleticism and determination in this photo.

His website says: “Richard’s aspirations are far bigger than just winning races. He wants to make a difference. To prove that even though he has a disability, he has overcome barriers that have been put in front of him. Following gold medals at the IPC World Championships and Anniversary Games (200m T42), Richard completed the challenge of a lifetime – running 40 marathons in 40 days, from John O’Groats to Land’s End. He ran a total of 977 miles for his two chosen charities, Scope and Sarcoma UK.”

Richard will be competing in at least the 200m in Rio.

Day 4: Sophie Hahn, from England. Competing here at the London Anniversary Games 2015.

Sophie, who has cerebral palsy, came into athletics at the age of 15, inspired by the 2012 Summer Paralympics in London. Her first competitive races occurred in 2013, when she broke onto the British sprinting scene by taking first place at the England Athletics Senior Disability Championships, winning both 100m and 200m.

She has since gone on to win medals at the IPC World Championships in Lyon in the T38 class, and also at the IPC European Championships in Swansea at 2014. I took this photo at the 2015 Anniversary Games where she took first place in a sensational race. Sophie has a close rivalry with Veronica Hipolito, a Brazilian who will be running with home support in Rio, so has her work cut out. This photo shows her winning the 100m in London last summer, and I think the expression is surprise… before the delight kicked in!

Sophie will be competing in the 100m in Rio.

Day 5: Jonnie Peacock MBE, from Cambridgeshire. Competing here at the London Anniversary Games 2015.

On his Paralympic debut at London 2012, Jonnie, who is lower-limb amputee after he contracted meningitis when he was five years old, was the fastest qualifier for the final of the T44 100m. As the youngest athlete competing in the final of his event, Jonnie set a new Paralympic record to take gold with a time of 10.90 seconds… wearing blades.

I saw Jonnie at the London Anniversary Games where he narrowly missed the gold to rival Richard Browne – who you can see crossing the line in the photo. It was a massive race and I think the photo shows his power, tinged with a little frustration. Jonnie came up to the crowds afterwards and quite by chance had a great chat with my kids and their friends – top guy!

Jonnie will be competing in the 100m at Rio.

Day 6: Paul Blake, from Dorchester, Dorset. Warming down in fading light at the Exeter Harriers Open meeting, July 2016.

Paul, who has cerebral palsy, used to play Basketball until he turned his attention to running. Prior to London 2012 his career highlight was his gold medal-winning performance in the T36 400m at the 2011 IPC Athletics World Championships in Christchurch, New Zealand. He is also the current World Record holder in the T36 1500m with a time of 4:34.42.

At London 2012, Paul competed in both the T36 400m and the T36 800m, and came away with silver in the T36 400m, and bronze medal in the T36 800m, in a time of 2:08.24 - which would have secured the gold medal in Beijing. Paul says “It's an honour to put the GB vest on every time, I'm really, really proud." and was amongst the first to be selected for the Rio 2016 Paralympic squad. The photos shows to me that athletics is about so much more than the event itself.

Paul will be competing in the 400m in Rio.

Day 7: Georgie Hermitage, from Guildford. Competing here at the London Anniversary Games 2015.

Georgie Hermitage quit athletics at aged 14, only to take it up again after being inspired by London 2012 and wanting to leave a legacy for her new-born daughter. Georgie has cerebral palsy so started competing in the T37 class in 100m and 400m in 2013, achieving her international debut in 2015 at the IPC (International Paralympic Commission) Grand Prix event in Dubai.

I took my photo of Georgie at the London Anniversary Games in the summer 2015, where you can see her delighted celebrations having just won the T37 400m in front of a home crown of 30,000 people - and her daughter. She went on in that year to represent Great Britain at the IPC Athletics World Championships in Doha. Although relatively new to the para-athletics scene, she is someone to watch.

Georgie will be competing in the 100m, 400m and 4x100m relay in Rio.

Day 8: Joe Allen, from Bridport, Dorset. Training on the coast path at West Bay, July 2016.

Joe says “2006 in my sixth form common room I heard on the radio that London would host the Paralympic Games. That’s when I set my sights towards the worlds biggest sporting stage. By January 2012 I had the British record for the 1500m and was Junior World Champion in the same distance. However, I was 4 seconds short of the “A” standard set by British Athletics. Their job was to take medal winning potential and I fell marginally short of that target. I attended my race and watched 3 athletes break the current world record, conceding that the selectors made the right decision.

After London 2012 I changed to triathlon and have had success at national events. I’m continuing to grow in to the sport and have targeted the Tokyo 2020 Paralympic games.” Although Joe is not going to Rio I wanted to include him in this exhibition as like the other eight, he is an accomplished athlete, but unlike them, just missed the top spot by seconds. He is also an inspirational coach, all round nice-guy and a local boy.

Joe will be representing GB in Iron Man Para-Triathlon, Hawai’i, October

Day 9: Hannah Cockroft MBE, from Halifax. Competing here at the London Anniversary Games 2015.

There is so much to say about Hannah that there is no way I can do it justice here. She is amongst the most well-known and loved of our Paralympic stars, and not just because of the medals, but because she is so positive and has such fighting spirit.

Hannah has cerebral palsy - she suffered two cardiac arrests at birth that damaged two different parts of her brain and was left with a disability that affected her balance and mobility, problems with her fine motor skills, weak hips and deformed feet and legs. Her parents were told that she would never be able to walk, talk, do anything for herself or live past her teenage years.

She has somewhat defied that with Paralympic and world records for the 100 m, 200m, 400 m and 800m in her classification – the T34 class. Competing for Great Britain at the 2012 Summer Paralympics, she won two gold medals. She is also a touch superstitious and has to eat jelly before every race! In my photo of Hannah I wanted to show her power and determination.

Hannah will be competing in multiple events in Rio.


Yeovil District Hospital, Outpatients Dept:

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