One of the highlights of last year’s Spartan Race season was following James Simpson’s Trifecta attempts. He was the first British double amputee to complete an obstacle race and, in doing so, he showed incredible determination on a course with substantial natural and man-made challenges (read his experiences from the Pippingford Sprint here). His efforts were an inspiration to all of us, but none more so Peter Hull and Kevin Hopkins from the Solent Sharks Wheelchair Rugby Club, who will be attempting to complete the Pippingford Spartan Sprint themselves next weekend.
Peter Hull MBE is a three times Paralympics swimming gold medallist and was born with no legs and with arms ending at the elbow. He has had a life filled with incredible achievements and it's no surprise that obstacle racing has captured his attention. He told us...
"It became apparent quite early in life that I was going to be reliant on my upper body, and short arms, to do everyday tasks. I took up swimming for fitness and to build strength as it’s a good all round form of exercise. I competed in my first Swimming Gala at the age of ten and won Gold – I wanted more! I continued to win medals at Junior & Senior levels until I got selected to go to the Paralympics in 1988 and 1992 - I won three Golds in Barcelona. As sport and physical activity have had such a positive impact on my life, physically and emotionally, I trained to become a Sport Development Officer, so now work with a variety of different partners in making sport more accessible to disabled people. I found Wheelchair Rugby nearly two years ago and really enjoy the aggression and teamwork that comes with every training session and game. Both qualities will be an integral part of our participation in the Spartan Race."
Father of four Kevin Hopkins lost his left leg above the knee following a motor bike accident in 2002. Initially his injury affected him badly and he lost interest in various everyday activities and didn't want to socialise. Kevin explained that he would use his disability as an excuse not to do anything. However the Paralympics in 2012 inspired him to take up wheelchair rugby and since then he hasn't looked back.
Neither Kevin nor Peter have taken part in an obstacle race before but both of them are excited about the challenge
"I wanted to see how far I can push myself" Kevin told us.
The Support Team
Both of the guys will be surrounded by a support team, lead by Dina Nielsen (pictured below), who was responsible for formulating the plan in the first place after chatting to James Simpson several times. Dina is a former Danish armed forces training sergeant and experienced obstacle racer. Since leaving the forces she has been a support worker and personal care assistant and it was through a colleague that she came in contact with the Solent Sharks Rugby Club.
Dina will be joined in the support crew by several others, including her partner Robin Street, Kevin's sons Stephan and Kevin Jr and the Solent Sharks team member Gus Mackechnie. There's also a chance that James Simpson will be joining them, if his commitments to the England wheelchair rugby team allow.
When I asked Peter and Kevin about any specialist equipment they were using, I was expecting them to have the equivalent of trail running shoes for their chairs, but their answers were far more casual. Peter told us:
"The only ‘special’ equipment I’ll be using is a fairly robust and battered old chair. I will have some sticks to help me around where appropriate, but have a feeling they are going to be fairly ineffective along parts of the course. That is where the teamwork will kick in."
"I have an old chair but I'm not expecting it to be usable at the end but will be taking crunches just in case."
Getting involved in disabled sports
If Peter, Kevin and James have inspired you to get into disabled sports, they are becoming far more accessible. Kevin told us:
"I would say go for it, it's the best thing I have ever done... Disabled sport/activity IS getting better. It's not quite there in my opinion but it has got better Since the 2012 Paralympics."
"Yes, there is plenty of opportunities. Disability sport is just adapting the sport to the capabilities of the athletes. In some sports it is easier than in others but we’re definitely getting there... Don’t be afraid of making mistakes and have a go."
Support Peter, Kevin and The Solent Sharks
Peter, Kevin and the support crew are raising money for the Solent Sharks so that they can take on more community projects in Hampshire and encourage more disabled athletes into the sport. If you'd like to sponsor them, please head on over to their Crowdfunder page here.
If you're taking part in next weekend's Spartan Sprint at Pippingford, be sure to look out for the guys and give them some encouragement, they'll be in the 11:30 wave.
Thanks to Epic Action Imagery for the Spartan pictures.