Youngsters from South London experienced an unforgettable morning in Croydon as high jump ace Jonathan Broom-Edwards attended a Paralympic inclusion event at Minster School.
As part of Parasport’s Tokyo 2020 Games-time activation, inclusive taster sessions were hosted at Parasport clubs around the country to celebrate clubs and volunteers, reduce isolation for disability sport through participation and focus on wellbeing following the challenges created by Covid.
Tokyo 2020 Paralympic gold medallist Broom-Edwards, 33, attended the event run by members of Croysutt Warriors, a club based in Croydon which aims to promote and bring goalball to all.
Representatives from the club present included Tom Britton, a father-of-five who credits goalball for helping him recover from the depression he fell into when his sight started to fail, and Jack Peters, who joined the club aged 15 alongside Tom five years ago and is now part of the Under-23 side.
As well as trying goalball, those in attendance got the opportunity to try showdown, a game similar to table tennis and air hockey for visually impaired people which the club have brought to the UK.
Broom-Edwards said: “It’s something I’ve never tried before and I’m just excited to see what someone with a visual impairment has to deal with day-to-day, especially in a sport where they’ve got to use all their other senses.
“I’d encourage anyone to come along and give goalball a go - I’m sure you’ll have a great time with it. It’s such a fun sport to do.”
Broom-Edwards, whose gold in Tokyo adds to the silver he took home from Rio in 2016, hopes ParalympicsGB’s summer of success will usher in improved opportunities for disabled athletes across the board.
“It’s extremely important that sport is inclusive,” he said.
“We shouldn’t stop someone being able to have an opportunity just because they are disabled or impaired. It’s incredibly important to express ourselves in the way we want to express ourselves.
“Many people want to partake in sport, and having a lack of opportunities because we have a disability or impairment is not fair.
“We should all have equal opportunities and take part regardless of our disabilities.
“With the Parasport movement moving forward in such a way, there’s so many opportunities for people with impairments; be it someone with an amputation, be it visually impaired, be it someone in a wheelchair, there’s so much out there for everyone to get involved with.
“Younger generations are our future. Let them try out all types of sports. They may find that they enjoy it but they may find that they are extremely talented at this particular sport.”
Among those in attendance was Eoghan Bennett, who is visually impaired and was trying goalball for the very first time.
Bennett, 7, said: “My favourite thing has been learning about saving and all the different moves.
“I’ve also tried swimming. I would love to be a Paralympian one day.”
Also present was Odette Battarel, who came to try showdown.
Battarel, 58, was diagnosed with Stargardt Disease in the late 1980s, shortly after moving to London from France to work as an au pair.
She plays sports such as blind tennis but believes it’s vital that there are more opportunities for the visually impaired community.
Battarel said: “I heard about showdown before, but I’d never tried it. I love sport, so I thought just have a go. I’ve found it really interesting, even more than I thought I would. It’s been fun.
“There are not that many opportunities for people who are visually impaired in Croydon or even London. I play tennis but I have to travel for an hour and half to get there.
“I only live five minutes away from here so for me it’s really nice to come down and meet other people, and be active and social.
“I’ll definitely come again in the future.”
Parasport powered by Toyota have been hosting inclusive taster sessions at Parasport clubs around the country, to highlight their stories and celebrate their members and volunteers contribution to inclusive sport in the community. For more information please visit www.parasport.org.uk