It’s a long way from the grassy banks of the Woodbank Stadium in Stockport to the towering tiers of seats in the Olympic Stadium in Rio De Janeiro. Nearly 6,000 miles. A world away.
And a world is watching. From a quiet athletics club to a place on the starting line with the greatest racers on the planet. Olympic glory the prize. An unbelievable journey? Just a fantasy?
Not according to Rick Hoskins, coach at Stockport Wheelchair Racing. “I’m striving for success and making the athletes believe they can achieve. If they put the work in they can reach the top.”
He should know. One of Stockport’s racers, Andy Small, came away with the bronze medal in the Men’s 100m T33 event at the Rio Paralympics 2016. A year later he did it again at the World Para Athletics Championships in London.
Out of the garage
Stockport Wheelchair Racing operate out of a simple concrete garage at the Woodbank Stadium. It’s where they store their kit and carry out training on a couple of sets of rollers, as well as on the athletics track outside. From here, in 2019 they will be sending out athletes to compete overseas starting in Dubai in February, followed with a trip to Switzerland in May.
“Although we have elite athletes our prime focus is developing athletes to become future Paralympians,” Rick says enthusiastically, “and have athletes as part of the team to keep active. It’s not just about being an elite athlete – it’s about being part of something.
“So many disabled people in wheelchairs are excluded from PE at school; this is an area schools should be looking at. I would be willing to go into schools, take rollers in, let people have a go – indoors and outdoors.
“If kids are increasing their heart-rate they’re getting fit. If you’re sitting on a couch you’re vegetating.”
And missing out. In Switzerland next August some of Stockport’s athletes are due to attend a camp run by wheelchair superstar Marcel Hug and his coach Paul Odermat. So what’s it like to mix with racing royalty?
“Marcel and Paul are a lovely guys, they don’t just show up for photos, they are there with everybody – eat with them, drink with them…”
More than a set of spikes
But there is the funding hurdle. Stockport’s elite athletes receive some Lottery money but this is only sufficient to fund one big event. The club and athletes themselves must find the money for the rest.
Overseas events can prove especially expensive. “It’s not like a runner with a set of spikes. We have a bag with a wheelchair in it, a bag of wheels and a bag of spare wheels; then we have to find out whether we’re going to be charged for baggage.”
Rick has big plans, with the Tokyo Paralympics a primary goal, now less than two years away. But a lot depends on how much the club can raise to give the athletes the training and equipment they need.
Globaleather are proud to be supporting Rick and the team, having been working with them recently to develop brand new, dedicated wheelchair racing gloves, due for launch soon. We’re so happy to be a part of the journey too.
It’s a long way from Stockport to the starting line at Tokyo.
But believable? Oh, yeah.