John Willis, born without fully formed arms and legs, is set to complete his Road2Rio Challenge on Friday 30 September at the Warren Golf and Country Club near Maldon, Essex. The Challenge has seen John participate in all 34 Olympic and Paralympics sports over the last 12 months. It has required ingenuity, new technology, courage and lots of training.
John, fundraising for charity Power2inspire and showcasing the inclusive nature of sport, 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!”
It required ingenuity for John to join in with Judo and Wrestling – coaches designing moves and exercises that allowed John 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. 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 simply and cost effectively print the attachments with a 3D printer. John hopes it will encourage more people of all abilities to enjoy sport.
Courage was required to complete the diving and equestrian challenges: without hands or feet these pose real leaps of faith. John was rewarded with a Diving Certificate from the Cambridge Dive Team and a Dressage rosette from Dressage Anywhere.
Throughout John had to maintain his fitness and increase his strength culminating in a 3200m swim as John completed every Olympic and Paralympics distance in one day. Rowing required outings, rugby and football kicking practice and hammer throwing the most training sessions.
Coach Mick Shortland sums up the whole challenge while describing the athletics discipline:
“When I was asked to support John in his challenge to throw the hammer, my first reaction was there is no para equivalent for the hammer but I am happy to give it a go. Then I found out about John’s disability and, to be honest, I thought how on earth are we going to do this? Typically John had this all under control, had worked out that he could hold the handle with his right elbow and so we started. 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. Any contenders?”
John threw a personal best of 13.45m at the championships and claims it as a world record.
All of these events have a common theme: the support given to John and Power2Inspire. Clubs, coaches, administrators and fellow players and competitors have embraced the project and made it happen. Their enthusiasm and determination, even from those aged 6 years old, has never ceased to amaze.
John is fundraising so Power2Inspire can roll out its ‘PowerHouse Games’ , inclusive and adapted sports days, that enable people of all abilities, whether disabled or not, to join in fun activities, and to learn through play (however old they are) about disability and the power of inclusion.
The finale is golf. Power2Inspire have entered a truly mixed-ability team in the Provide CIC annual charity golf day , further demonstrating that sport can be inclusive. So please support John on the opening day of the Ryder Cup as he completes this sporting Odyssey