This week, as Chair of the Disability All Party Parliamentary Group, I hosted my first “Meet the Paralympians” event supported by Channel 4 and held in Stewartfield Community Centre in East Kilbride. It was a truly fantastic event attended by our own local Paralympian and medal winner Aileen Neilson from Strathaven, alongside medal winner and Paralympic Skier Brett Wild.
The event was extremely well attended by constituents across the generations and children in attendance described how inspired they felt meeting the Paralympians, taking selfies with them and holding and wearing real Paralympic Medals.
I was particularly delighted to have attendance from East Kilbride Disability Sports Club, including their own medal winners from The Special Olympic Games such as East Kilbride’s Diane Gillan.
I felt privileged to try on a Paralympic Medal too as did local Councillor John Anderson, who works really hard across his ward supporting inclusion in sports particularly at The Red Deer Bowling Club Wheelchair Events. The medals are much heavier than you think and it was truly amazing to be able to see and touch them and to think about all the training that has gone into achieving the ultimate prize and attainment in sport.
Our Paralympians gave speeches about their journey to the Paralympic Games, the supports they had received along the way and the key elements to their success.
Aileen Neilson said that Inspiration was her key and that it was particularly important to ‘keep trying’. She is the first woman to have skipped a wheelchair curling team in the Paralympic Games (2010) and World Championships (2011). Aileen won a bronze medal from the 2007 World Wheelchair Curling Championships and a silver medal from the 2011 World Wheelchair Curling Championships. She then won a bronze medal at the 2014 Winter Paralympics a Sochi. Aileen has a teaching background in South Lanarkshire and intimated that it is particularly important to her to give back to the local community.
Brett Wild is a Paralympic Skier and is the guide of Millie Knight who is partially sighted. In 2017, they claimed a historic downhill victory at the World Championships as well as securing the World Cup title for the same discipline. At the PyeongChang 2018 Paralympic Winter Games Millie and Brett won silver medals in the downhill and super-G as well as a bronze medal in the slalom. Brett told us that team working was key to his success alongside believing in yourself and learning from set-backs. He described incurring injuries in sport and having to develop ‘a can do’ mind-set to overcome adversity.
Hosting such an inspirational event makes me more determined than ever to maintain my key focus on Disability and Inclusion in the House of Commons to ensure that everyone is given opportunity to reach their full potential. I am delighted to have been re-elected for the third year as Chair of the Disability All Party Parliamentary Group and will update readers regularly on this crucial work at Westminster.