Spinal injury proves no barrier to competing in sport

The Northern Echo: Mark Bonnar who competed at the Inter Spinal Unit Games. Mark Bonnar who competed at the Inter Spinal Unit Games.

A MAN left paralysed after a diving accident in Tenerife has made a five hundred mile round trip to compete in the Inter Spinal Unit Games.

Marc Bonnar, who was paralysed after the accident in a swimming pool in 2012, was part of the team from the North of England Spinal Cord Injury Centre in Middlesbrough who travelled to Stoke Mandeville in Buckinghamshire.

The 24-year-old animation design graduate from Ingleby Barwick joined other patients from around the country and the Republic of Ireland to take part in the 27th Inter Spinal Unit Games organised by WheelPower – the national charity for wheelchair sports.

Participants received coaching and demonstrations from leading wheelchair sports athletes and experienced coaches.

He tried various sports such as archery, shooting and the tough wheelchair rugby before finding his niche playing table tennis, which he has been able to play since his accident, where he reached the semi -finals.

He said: “It’s good to be around people in the same situation as yourself, I spent a whole year in a side room in hospital after the accident and hadn’t been able to speak to other people in the same situation.”

Mr Bonnar, a Teesside University graduate, was injured in Tenerife on the first day of a holiday with friends in 2012.

Team leader Clair Williams said: “This is Marc’s first experience away from home since the injury and he shown exceptional enthusiasm in the sports he could manage”.

Another patient from the North of England Spinal Cord Injury Centre, based at Middlesbrough’s James Cook University Hospital, showed that age was no barrier as 68-year-old former marathon runner Denis Fairbridge took on younger counterparts at the Games.

Sport has played a part in his rehabilitation after his accident, but the Middlesbrough pensioner said he was impressed with the facilities at Stoke Mandeville and said he hoped they could have more in the North-East.

WheelPower’s Sport Development Officer, Stewart Jeeves, who organised the event said: “The patients with spinal cord injuries have discovered first-hand what they can achieve in terms of participating in sport and living an independent lifestyle.

"Many will return home full of confidence and desire to continue playing the sport they love in their local area.”

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