From London 2012 to Rio 2016: Wythenshawe disabled cyclists pedal distance between Olympic cities

By Mancunian Matters staff

As the Games get ready to move from London to Rio de Janeiro, a group of disabled children and adults cycled the distance between the two Olympic cities – a whopping 5,000 miles.

Brazilian Paralympic cyclists Joao Schwindt and Soelito Ghor joined the ‘Wythenshawe Wheelers’ for the last of 20,000 laps this weekend.

The epic undertaking was part of The Wythenshawe Games – the town’s replica of London 2012, hosted at Wythenshawe Park.

Sue Blaylock, founder of Wythenshawe Wheelers, said: “This challenge has involved a supreme effort from our cyclists. They have proved that they won’t be beaten and they can overcome all obstacles. It has been an emotional journey with many personal triumphs along the way.”

The Wythenshawe Wheelers are a volunteer-run cycling club, who have a range of bikes adapted for people with disabilities.

They were cycling every day for the duration of the Games to meet their ambitious target.

Completing the final lap on Saturday, the torch was symbolically passed to the Brazilian athletes to acknowledge where the Games would travel to next.

ACHIEVEMENT: Wythenshawe Wheelers with Brazlian Paralympic cycling team
members (l to r at front) Claudio Civatti (coach), Joao Schwindt and Soelito Ghor

Ten-year-old Alex O’Neill, who has dispraxia, a co-ordination disorder, was one of the Wheelers who met the Brazilian athletes. Alex cycled 200 laps towards the target distance.

Mum Laura, from Chorlton, said: “Today shows how you can stretch the hand of friendship out across the world and that everyone is equal.

“I’ll show Alex all the pictures again when she is older and tell her how important this day has been. Hopefully she will then show them to her children.”

In keeping with London 2012, the Wythenshawe Games were hosted July 20-29 and involved more than 10,000 residents in 52 events.

They even featured an open and closing ceremony along with an Olympic-style village and arena.

PASSING THE TORCH: Joao Schwindt and Sue Blaylock

Councillor Glynn Evans, Executive Member for Adults Services at Manchester Council and chair of The Wythenshawe Games, said: “The whole idea behind the Wythenshawe Games was to make sure that every person in the town could join in, benefit from and hopefully find a hobby for life. That should be the ethos of all sport – there should be no barriers to participation.

“It was an incredibly powerful and moving moment on Saturday when the Wheelers completed that final lap, which really is a lap of honour.”

Nearly 300 Brazilian Paralympians, taking part in 16 disciplines including swimming, archery, cycling, sitting volleyball, fencing, powerlifting and athletics, began arriving in Manchester last week.

Team GB’s Paralympic swimmers and paracyclists have also been based in the city during the run up to the games, while Thailand’s Paralympic wheelchair racing contestants have set up a training camp in the city.

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