Thursday, 19 October 2017

Mayor greets disabled sportsman taking on ironman challenge

A MAN who was left paralysed after falling 200ft in an avalanche visited Henley last week during a 140-mile charity

A MAN who was left paralysed after falling 200ft in an avalanche visited Henley last week during a 140-mile charity triathlon.

Paul Stewart, who was told he would never walk again after his accident, is attempting a 2.4-mile swim, 112-mile cycle ride and 26.2-mile walk — the ironman distance — followed by a climb of the cliff in France where he was injured.

The 32-year-old former hockey player is attempting the IronSpine Challenge in 11 days to raise money for two charities, Spinal Research and Wings for Life.

On Thursday last week, he arrived in Henley after a 7.8-mile cycle ride accompanied by friends, charity workers and champion jockey Tony McCoy and was greeted by Mayor Stefan Gawrysiak.

Mr Stewart, from Fulham, said: “I started on Tuesday and I’m basically tracing my steps back to where the accident happened.

“It’s hard. The cycling was a lot tougher than I thought it would be but physically the walk is the hardest going.

“I always said if I got my legs back I would use them to help those less lucky and I hope I can inspire people to get up and do something. I’ve been blown away by the support I’ve had.”

Mr Stewart was left paralysed from the waist down after his spinal cord was damaged in the accident in 2008 in La Plagne, where he working as a snowboard instructor.

But after years of gruelling rehabilitation he can walk with the aid of sticks, despite still having no feeling or sensation below tje knee as he takes each step.

McCoy, a family friend, said Mr Stewart’s mental strength was “unbelievable”, adding: “Any sports person would be proud of what he is doing and he is proving to people what is achievable.”

The Mayor said: “It was great to meet Paul. I admire his courage in doing this challenge, which is a huge feat of endurance.”

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