A Cambridge businessman who set himself the challenge of participating in all 34 Olympic and Paralympic sports over the past 12 months is nearing his goal.
Over the past year John Willis, who was born without forearms or lower legs, has been encouraging able-bodied and disabled people to play sports together through his Road2Rio challenge.
The former Trinity Hall student attempted almost every sport featured in the Olympics and Paralympics in the run-up to the 2016 Games in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil including table tennis, basketball, badminton and boccia, a game akin to bowls.
And this week, he is taking part in his final two events; today John will take on synchronised swimming and on Friday he will complete all 34 sports with golf – the day the Ryder Cup starts – at the Warren Golf and Country Club near Maldon, Essex.
John, who is fundraising for his charity Power2inspire which promotes inclusion through sport, in particular by running inclusive sports days in school, said: “I am thrilled. I have made so many friends, learnt so many new things and gained fitness and strength.
“I was sidelined from sport when young; now I know there is a sport for everyone. Join in and have fun.”
The challenge required ingenuity for John to join in with judo and wrestling with coaches designing moves and exercises that allowed him to participate while providing valuable lessons for the rest of the class.
New technology was needed for fencing, hockey, cycling, the racket sports, rowing, kayaking and archery.
Iain McDermint, of Cambridge Sword, designed the foil and hockey stick, which screw directly into an NHS prosthetic arm while Simon Goodbrand, of Caius College, Cambridge, designed and built the tricycle.
And Oliver and Max of CBAS, designed and made the tennis attachment, the paddle and oar attachments and the adapted compound bow, supplied by Clickers of Norwich. These new designs will be uploaded online so that anyone in the world with similar needs can print the attachments with a 3D printer which John hopes will encourage more people of all abilities to enjoy sport.
Courage was required to complete the diving and equestrian challenges as without hands or feet these pose real leaps of faith.
Throughout, John had to maintain his fitness and increase his strength culminating in a 3,200m swim as John completed every Olympic and Paralympic distance in one day.
Coach Mick Shortland added: “A lot of trial and success has gone into John’s training and with a modified technique he has now got the bug and is improving with every session. No matter how far he throws; in my eyes he will be the unofficial World Champion because I don’t think this has ever been done before.”
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