Almost a year ago now, GB Paraclimb Team Manager Graeme Hill asked me if I’d be an ambassador to the team. Of course I was honoured and as I followed the meteoric progress of our athletes it occurred to me that no Paraclimb events were taking place in Scotland. Determined to rectify this, I spoke to MCofS Development Officer Kev Howett and it turned out that he and MTS Chair Graham Morrison were already scheming something. This seemed serendipitous so I was keen to lend my support and Paraclimb Scotland was born.
The three of us honestly had no idea what kind of take up we might see, but were nevertheless anxious to get things off to a start, however small. In fact, two weeks before the event, almost nobody had signed up! I think we were all surprised (and relieved) then, just how popular the event proved to be. With over 30 competitors, a similar number of customers for the free taster sessions, around 20 volunteers from MCofS, Ratho and other walls, friends, family, helpers and carers, not to mention members of the press, the EICA Arena was absolutely buzzing all day.
Competitors came from all over Scotland, from England and Northern Ireland, and even from California (!) to take part and the atmosphere was exciting, intense and fun, all at the same time. We had climbers in almost every category, including upper and lower amputees, visually impaired, learning difficulties, and wheelchair users. The taster sessions were equally popular and there was barely a dry eye in the house as one particular young boy, who has brittle bone disease, was assisted to the top of the wall, shouting and yelling all the way, while his poor mum could hardly bare to watch!
Thanks a lot to DMM, Tisos and The Climbing Shop, who all generously donated prizes.
Here’s a link to the BBC piece on the event. Well worth a watch! http://www.bbc.co.uk/sport/0/get-inspired/29787999
On a personal level I was thrilled to see so many disabled folk participating in the sport that has meant so much to me in my life, and on a practical level the event demonstrated that there genuinely is a demand for paraclimbing in Scotland. This is just the beginning!