Paralympic Games: keeping the flame burning

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Co-editor Martyn Sibley is taking up the mantel from last year’s Paralympic Games as Britain’s Personal Best launches to help keep the spirit of 2012 alive. Here he announces his greatest challenge ever…

Like others all across the UK, I was spellbound by the London 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games, and it wasn’t just the sport. It was the electricity in the air, it was the collective community consciousness and for me, it was about the big bright light put on disability, never before witnessed in the 4 corners of the UK.

But I, like many others, don’t want the light to burn out. So what am I going to do – join Britain’s Personal Best, a project aimed at encouraging the nation to reach their personal best and feel good about what they’ve achieved. This video says it all:

Many of our DH readers will already know who I am, but for those who don’t, am a regular guy who happens to have a disability called Spinal Muscular Atrophy (SMA), which means I cannot walk, lift anything heavier than a book or shower by myself. I have a Masters degree, I have travelled the world as far as Australia, I drive my own car, run my own business, and have been scuba diving. I live independently in London.

My day-to-day life consists of surmounting hurdles that a non-disabled person would never encounter. Whether crossing the road, accessing public transport or overcoming stereotypes, there are always additional challenges to overcome. So taking up the mantel from last year’s Games I wanted to do something big to help people understand the challenges I and many others face on a daily basis, and to raise money for my favourite charity, Scope.

So, as I announce my role as one of the ambassadors for Britain’s Personal Best, I have set myself the greatest challenge of my life – to pilot my wheelchair every inch of the 970 miles from John o’ Groats to Land’s End. I will begin my journey in September and aim to complete on 5th October in time for the Britain’s Personal Best big weekend on the 4th to 6th October.

During the Games the recording of competitors’ personal best’s or PBs became commonplace as athletes secured lifetime achievements. So the idea behind Britain’s Personal Best is simple; it takes the notion of the personal best and transitions it from its current association with elite athletic accomplishment and instead invites everyone in the UK to achieve a PB as part of a new annual national celebration of personal achievement.

I want to inspire other disabled people to achieve their own personal best and encourage non-disabled people to challenge their own preconceptions of disability. I hope as well to promote integration and inclusion by sharing the experience with my non-disabled girlfriend, who will be joining me by cycling the route alongside.

With Britain’s Personal Best we are building on how inspired the UK felt after London 2012. It is a call for each and every one of us to dig deep and find something amazing that shows us at our own personal best, no matter what age, ability or resources you have. It’s about helping each other and ourselves, taking on a challenge that is intellectual, sporting, artistic, healthy or just plain scary.

I hope you too will try to challenge yourself to find your personal best. It doesn’t need to be as crazy as mine, but just leave your comfort zone, stretch yourself and have fun! Some people will be raising money for their favourite charities, doing something that they have never achieved before, be it rock climbing, or forming a new business, together or as individuals. The first step, to log on and register at www.whatsyours.org.

I care about disability and I care that the big bright light from last years Games doesn’t go out. So this will be my personal best… what’s yours?

By Martyn Sibley

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