Paralysed South Yorkshire firefighter selected for Olympics

Gavin Walker, L, playing wheelchair rugby
Gavin Walker, L, playing wheelchair rugby
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A firefighter left paralysed after a freak accident has been selected to compete in the Olympics in Rio - after taking up wheelchair rugby..

Gavin Walker, aged 33, slipped on some decking at a garden party at his mum’s house in Brinsworth, Rotherham, when tragedy struck.

He was walking on wet decking around a garden pool when he slipped, fell down three steps and landed on his head in the water - breaking his neck.

The dad-of-two took up wheelchair rugby after meeting Great Britain Wheelchair Rugby classifier and physio, Sarah Leighton, who encouraged him to give it a go.

But now, six years after his fall, Gavin is a full-time athlete and Paralympian, heading out to the Rio Paralympics as Vice-Captain of the GB wheelchair rugby squad.

“I’d never played rugby before my injury and was more into individual sports such as cycling and running. But having been a firefighter I loved the team environment and rugby fulfilled the part of the job that I used to do before my injury - an aspect I missed," he said.
He has competed in European and World Championships since taking up the sport.

"Training is really stepping up now and the final GB squad of 12 are in camp training and building chemistry ahead of Rio. We’re just back from competing in Japan, where we won silver, and we won gold in Brazil earlier in the year. Both competitions have been great preparation for us,” added Gavin.

“We’re currently ranked fifth in the world and we’ve got a young, talented squad with growing experience. We’re improving all the time, have been beating the teams above us in the rankings and we know we can do it.

"Sport is an excellent rehabilitation, not just physically - making a person stronger and fitter - but mentally. Being in and around people in a similar situation shows just what you can do.”
Gavin, who spent most of his working career at Mansfield Road fire station in Sheffield, is able to move his arms but has no movement from the chest down.