ParaCommonwealth Stories

Long Jump – ParaSport Challenge

Nothing could prepare me for my next challenge as I to embark on trying my hand at the Long Jump.  It was met with anticipation and fear. The anticipation, I was keen to see what I could realistically do and on the other hand was fear of struggling with my functions in my leg muscles.

Darren Ritchie was our coach for this assignment and, effectively, our athlete as well. Darren is now National Events Manager (Jumps and Combined Events) for Scottish Athletics.

His main sporting achievement as a long jumper was a fourth placed finish in the men’s long jump event at the Manchester Commonwealth Games in 2002. Agonisingly, Darren jumped 7.88 for fourth when the bronze medallist, Kareem Streete-Thompson recorded 7.89, a mere centimetre more.

Born in Edinburgh on February 14 1975 (Valentine’s Day!), Darren is now retired as an athlete, but can reflect on being Scottish Long Jump Champion six times during his career. His personal best was 8.02m. He spent time away from Scotland in both England and Norway.

Also attendance was Shona Malcolm who is the Disability Athletics Development Officer for Scottish Athletics.

We were also joined by Nicola Tennant, who is a Senior Physiotherapist in Neurobiomechanic and Cerebral Palsy. The team have certainly learned alot on this assignment and there no way I could have explained the complications with hyper extension knee and other attributes that affects Cerebral Palsy.

As Darren tried to put me through my paces of warming and stretching my legs muscles, I was struggling to do everything on my left leg. (My Cerebral Palsy affects my left side of the body so the physical efforts is greater than my right side.)

Nicola was beginning to monitor my legs movements and it became apparent that I have spasticity in my left leg. Spasticity is a term that is often used interchangeably with hypertonia.  Spasticity, however, is a particular type of hypertonia in which the muscles’ spasms are increased by movement.

While I was finding this assignment frustrating, I clearly got into the focus orientated mode of aiming to co-ordinate my balance rather than become patronised by everyone looking on. It became obvious to Darren that he had no chance mastering the whole techniques of doing the Long Jump in one day as the complexity of my muscles is too great to deal with.

We just concentrated on me trying to jump from the edge of the sand pitch and even that was a challenge as I didn’t have the stability. Every time, I jumped into the sand, I lost my balance easily, bringing back recollection of me falling in sinking mud in the Amazon five years ago! I just busted out laughing so much that my whole face went into the sand and during the process, the sand entered my mouth! Yuck! At least, I do laugh at myself in funny situations which tells me that sports should be taken as enjoyment too.

It was truly my toughest Parasport by far and probably always will be. It was far more complicated than I thought it would.

Darren puts it to me, it was brainstorming through a puzzle to understand my functions along with the effects of Cerebral Palsy. I learned to master small techniques atleast.

It was a great day had by all and I know the team will be beaming about this assignment for a while to come!


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