‘Crazy Journey’: From Double Shark Attack To Paralympic Snowboarder

In this file photo taken on March 12, 2018, Australia’s Sean Pollard competes during the men’s Snowboard Cross run at the Jeongseon Alpine Centre during the Pyeongchang 2018 Winter Paralympic Games in Pyeongchang. Sean Pollard was surfing in Australia in 2014 when he was attacked by two great white sharks, losing his left arm and right hand and only just escaping alive.
Simon BRUTY / OIS/IOC / AFP

 

Sean Pollard was surfing in Australia in 2014 when he was attacked by two great white sharks, losing his left arm and right hand and only just escaping alive.

But far from wallowing in his misfortune, he threw himself into snowboarding — and just three years after taking up the sport, he made his Paralympic debut in Pyeongchang this week.

“It’s been a crazy journey,” said the 26-year-old.

“I am just really happy to get on the big stage, and try and show what I am capable of still doing now.”

Pollard made it through the early heats in the snowboard cross, narrowly missing out on the quarter-finals.

Even in a Winter Paralympics filled with hundreds of inspiring tales, from war veterans who lost limbs on the front line to cancer survivors, the Australian’s story stands out as remarkable.

“It’s been a fairly tough kind of ride the last few years,” he said.

“It took me six months before I could put socks on again.”

But he picked himself up and got his first taste of para-snowboarding during a visit to a ski resort town in the Australian state of Victoria.

During a subsequent trip to Canada, he happened to meet the country’s Paralympic coach, which further fired his interest in the sport.

On his return home he contacted the Australian Paralympic Committee — and began in earnest the journey that would eventually bring him to Pyeongchang.

Since November he has been travelling widely on the para-snowboarding circuit in preparation for the Games, competing in the Netherlands, Finland, Canada and the United States.

As well as snowboard cross — which pits competitors in a series of heats and head-to-head races — Pollard is also competing in slalom.

‘You’ve got to keep trying’

There are numerous different categories in para-sports depending on athletes’ disability, and Pollard competes in the category for people with upper limb impairments.

With both hands missing, he is at a disadvantage even to other para-snowboarders.

Snowboarders typically begin their runs by pushing off the top with a hand — but Pollard has to place his board sideways and jump out, giving him a slower start than his rivals.

“It puts me to the back of the pack straight away, but that is the sport and I would not whinge about it at all,” he said.

He is not the first Paralympian to have suffered a shark attack. South African swimmer Achmat Hassiem lost part of his right leg when he was mauled by one of the creatures in 2006.

He earned the nickname “Shark Boy”, and competed in three Summer Paralympics, winning a bronze medal in London 2012.

But Hassiem does not hold a grudge against sharks.

He says he feels grateful to them as the attack gave him the chance to travel the world taking part in sports events — and he ended up becoming a marine conservationist focused on shark protection.

Another Paralympian to have lost a limb in an animal attack is Ukraine’s Vasyl Kovalchuk, whose right arm was torn off by a bear during a visit to a zoo when he was 11.

He won gold medals in air rifle shooting at the 2012 and 2016 Summer Paralympics.

Pollard has a message for anyone who finds themselves struggling to overcome such a trauma: just keep trying.

“I think the biggest thing for me was I was not afraid to fail,” he said.

“You’ve got to keep trying.”

Pistorius Appeals Sentence To Constitutional Court

Oscar Pistorius

South African Paralympic gold medallist Oscar Pistorius has filed an application to the Constitutional Court seeking to overturn a higher prison sentence handed down by the appeals court last month, court documents showed on Tuesday.

Pistorius will appeal to the country’s highest court against the increased sentence of 13 years and five months, a murder term that the Supreme Court of Appeal more than doubled from an original six years, for shooting dead his girlfriend Reeva Steenkamp.

The athlete was jailed in July last year after being found guilty on appeal of murdering model and law graduate Steenkamp on Valentine’s Day 2013 by firing four shots through a locked bathroom door. The case attracted worldwide interest.

He had originally been found guilty of manslaughter and sentenced to five years in jail. That conviction was increased to murder by the Supreme Court in December 2015 and his sentence extended to six years by trial judge Thokozile Masipa in July last year.

Pistorius reached the semi-finals of the 400 metres at the London Olympics in 2012 and took two golds in the Paralympics.

Reuters

Mexico Earthquake: International Paralympic Committee Postpones Events

People remove debris of a building which collapsed after a quake rattled Mexico City on September 19, 2017. Omar TORRES / AFP

The international Paralympic committee has postponed its world championships events following the 7.1 magnitude earthquake which has wreaked huge havoc in Mexico.

The international committee postponed its powerlifting and swimming events following the earthquake which has killed over 200 people.

Both events were postponed after the IPC consulted with local government and the organising committee.

The 2017 para-sport festival was scheduled to hold from September 30th to October 6th in the Mexican capital.

Obiano Rewards Two Paralympic Athletes In Anambra

Obiano, Okorocha, Imo, Paralympic Athletes, Paralympic, Rochas Okorocha, Agriculture, House, Nigeria, ParalympicThe Anambra State Governor, Willie Obiano, says he has developed well-articulated programmes for the improvement and welfare of persons living with disabilities both in sports, education and in social integration.

The Governor was speaking during the recognition and presentation of gifts to two victorious Anambra athletes who won medals at the just concluded Paralympics Games in Rio de Janerio, Brazil.

The gold medalist in Javelin, Ifeyinwa Ugwumba, received a reward of 1 million Naira in addition to automatic employment in Anambra State Civil Service and similarly, the bronze medalist Njideka Iyiazi, received 1 million Naira and immediate employment into the State Civil Service.

The Governor also rewarded the two coaches that trained the athletes with half a million Naira each.

The Special Assistant to the Governor on Physically Challenged Persons, Mr Chucks Ezewuzie, said that the Governor would continue to raise the self-esteem of persons living with disability.

The State Commissioner for Youths, Entrepreneurship and Sports Development, Mrs Uju Nwogu, also added that the Governor’s commitment has ensured that excellence has been recorded in sports since he took office.

For them it is the beginning of sports revolution in the state as many who have left will come back and join in uplifting sports in the state.

Okorocha Rewards Imo Paralympic Athletes

Okorocha, Imo, Paralympic Athletes, Paralympic, Rochas Okorocha, AgricultureImo State Governor, Rochas Okorocha, has rewarded three gold medalists who are indigenes of the state at the just concluded Rio Paralympics in Brazil.

Each athlete received the sum of one million naira each, a plot of land and brand new car each.

Governor Okorocha commended the athletes for making the country proud in faraway Brazil, while urging them to continue to be dedicated and committed to their profession.

The Governor also rewarded their coaches and assistant coaches with brand new car each.

The Nigerian team won 12 medals in the Rio Games which ended on Sunday, September 18.

The team won eight gold, two silver and two bronze medals, setting six new World Records in the process.

Hundreds of Nigerians converged on the Nnamdi Azikiwe Airport in Abuja to welcome the Paralympics athletes back home.

The House of Representatives also resolved to contribute the sum of 50,000 Naira each, to the delegation as a token of their appreciation for an outstanding performance.

The resolution followed a motion sponsored on Wednesday by member of the lower chamber from Osun State, Representative Ayo Omidiran, at the National Assembly in Abuja, the Federal Capital Territory.

Rio 2016: Buhari Commends Nigeria’s Paralympic Team

Paralympics-Team-NigeriaPresident Muhammadu Buhari has congratulated Team Nigeria for an outstanding performance at the Paralympic Games in Rio, Brazil.

President Buhari commended the athletes for doing the country proud by winning 12 medals and setting new records, which made them the top-performing African team at the 2016 Games.

The President acknowledged the resilient spirit of the Nigerian Paralympic athletes, who were able to excel in the face of adversity.

He applauded the athletes for their tenacity, focus and determination, which has brought glory to the country.

The President also expressed gratitude to all the officials and trainers of the Paralympic athletes, who made sacrifices and persevered to fly the country’s colours.

Hundreds of Nigerians turned out at the Nnamdi Azikiwe Airport in Abuja to welcome the first batch of Rio 2016 Paralympics athletes who returned to Nigeria on Sunday.

Pistorius Forced To Look At ‘Exploded’ Head Of Girlfriend

Olympic and Paralympic track star Pistorius arrives ahead of his trial at the North Gauteng High Court in PretoriaA South African prosecutor forced Oscar Pistorius on Wednesday to look at a forensic photograph that showed the head of his girlfriend Reeva Steenkamp after it was blown open by a hollow-point bullet fired by the Olympic and Paralympic track star.

In a dramatic opening to his cross-examination of Pistorius, prosecutor Gerrie Nel made him admit he had killed Steenkamp then later confronted him with the photograph showing the side and back of her skull, her hair matted with blood and brains.

“Have a look there. I know you don’t want to because you don’t want to take responsibility,” Nel said to gasps from the packed public gallery.

“Take responsibility for what you have done,” Nel persisted, his voice rising almost to a shout.

Pistorius responded by burying his head in his hands in the witness stand, rocking from side to side and weeping.

The double amputee sprinter, once revered across the world for his triumph over adversity, faces life in prison if convicted in the Pretoria High Court of the murder of Steenkamp, a 29-year-old law graduate and model.

His defense hinges on his contention that he thought he was firing at an intruder when he shot Steenkamp through a toilet door in his luxury Pretoria home on February 14 – Valentine’s Day – last year.

“Zombie Stopper”

During the 18-day trial, Nel, renowned as one of South Africa’s toughest state attorneys with the nickname ‘The Pitbull’, has sought to show the 27-year-old as a gun-obsessed hot-head.

Early in his questioning, he asked Pistorius if he knew what a “zombie stopper” was, to which the defendant answered no.

After a brief adjournment, the court then viewed video footage broadcast before the trial by Britain’s Sky News of Pistorius firing a .50 caliber handgun at a watermelon at a shooting range.

As the melon disintegrates, Pistorius says off-camera: “It’s a lot softer than brains. But (bleep) it’s like a zombie stopper.”

Nel then pushed the track star, saying he had shot the melon because he wanted to see what a bullet hitting a person’s head looked like.

“You know that the same happened to Reeva’s head. It exploded. I’m going to show you,” he said, before projecting the

forensic photograph of Steenkamp’s head on the court monitors.

Steenkamp was hit by three of four 9 mm rounds fired by Pistorius through the toilet door. One hit her behind the right ear, killing her almost instantly, pathologists had earlier told the court.

Pistorius acknowledged responsibility but refused to lift his head.

“I don’t have to look at a picture. I was there,” he said.

Television stations carrying the feed from the court apologised to viewers as the graphic image was broadcast live.

South Africa’s Pistorius Granted Bail

South African athlete Oscar Pistorius was granted bail today after being accused of murdering his girlfriend.

The decision by Magistrate; Desmond Nair drew cheers from Pistorius’ family and supporters at the Pretoria magistrate court, although the athlete appeared unmoved as the decision was read out.

The decision followed a week of dramatic testimony about how the athlete shot dead his girlfriend Reeva Steenkamp at his luxury home near Pretoria in the early hours of February 14, Valentine’s Day.

Prosecutors said Pistorius, 26, committed premeditated murder when he fired four shots into a locked bathroom door, hitting his girlfriend cowering on the other side. Steenkamp, 29, suffered gunshot wounds to her head, hip and arm.

Pistorius’ defense team argued that the killing was a tragic mistake, saying the athlete had mistaken Steenkamp for an intruder. They said he was too famous to pose a flight risk and deserved bail to prepare for a case that has drawn worldwide attention.

The full trial is unlikely to start for several months. Olympic and Paralympic star Pistorius, a double amputee who ran races on carbon fiber blades, faces life in prison if convicted of murder.

The shooting and allegations that have emerged at the bail hearing have stunned the millions around the world who saw his track glory as an inspiring tale of triumph over adversity.

 

Unlicenced .38 Handgun Found In Pistorius Home – Police

A South African police investigator said on Wednesday he wants to charge global track star Oscar Pistorius with possession of illegal weapons after an unlicenced .38 handgun and ammunition were found in his home.

This was disclosed at a bail hearing for the Paralympic star.

Two containers of testosterone and needles were also discovered in his bedroom, a detective testifying at his murder bail hearing revealed.

Also at the hearing, South African prosecutors said that a witness heard “non-stop shouting” coming from his home shortly before he shot his girlfriend.

 

Jonathan doles out cash to Paralympians and Falconets

President Goodluck Jonathan on Saturday rewarded members of the Nigerian team to the 2012 London Paralympic Games and the national under-20 women football team (the Falconets).

At a reception held for both teams at State House Banquet Hall in Abuja, Mr Jonathan announced the conferment of the Member of the Order of Niger (MON) on six Paralympics athletes who won gold medals at the Games where Nigeria placed 22nd overall among 164 participating countries, and finished third behind Tunisia and South Africa among African countries.

The team of 29 athletes and 19 officials had won six gold, five silver and two bronze medals at the Paralympic Games.

The six gold medallists, who are all powerlifters and will be decorated on Monday in Abuja, include Yakubu Adesokan, who set a new world record in the men’s -48 k; Grace Anozie, Ivory Nwokorie, Loveline Obiji, Joy Onaolapo and Esther Oyema.

Mr Jonathan also announced a cash reward of N5 million for each gold medallist, while the five silver medallists were rewarded with N3 million each.

The two bronze medallists in the Paralympic team were also rewarded with N2 million each, while the team officials were each rewarded with N2.5 million.

Other members of the Paralympic team who did not win any medal at the Games, which was held from 29 August to 9 September, were also rewarded with N500, 000 Naira each.

The president further announced a reward of N1 million each for the women football team while their officials are to receive N1.2 million each.

The Falconets had finished fourth at the 2012 FIFA U-20 Women’s World Cup finals held in Japan from Aug. 18 to Sept. 8 in Japan.

The president said no amount of money or award would be enough to reward the two groups of Nigerian sports figures and that the reception was a modest recognition of their achievements.

“This is a modest recognition, which is just a token in our appreciation of your efforts. It is not the value of the money, but the recognition of your achievement, which is much more than any reward,” he said.

He praised the athletes, saying they gave hope to the Nigerian youths and those that are physically challenged.

“You represented our country to the best of your abilities. You competed among the very best in the world and still kept your heads. You made us proud, and I commend your exceptional courage.

“The Paralympians have also demonstrated to their fellow countrymen and women that being physically challenged is no barrier.

“It is also a great achievement on the part of the Falconets to come fourth in the world. It is not easy. You all helped to put smiles on our faces, and helped to remind the world that Nigeria is still a force in sports,’’ he said.

Earlier in his remarks, the Minister of Sports, Bolaji Abdullahi, had commended the president setting a pace in hosting the Paralympians and the Falconets.

He said it was the first time such an event was organised at that level to recognise athletes for performing outstandingly.

“I however want to call on the private sector to take a cue from the gesture of the President in honouring the Paralympians and the Falconets too,’’ he said.

The minister said the performance of both the Paralympians and Falconets comforted Nigerians following the poor outing of the athletes to the 2012 Olympics earlier.

He blamed the poor outing at the Olympics on high level of indiscipline and lack of commitment on the part of the athletes who represented the country.

Mr Abdullahi however pointed out that the greatest honour that could be bestowed on the Paralympic athletes was to give them early preparation for the 2016 Paralympic Games in Rio, Brazil.

In the same vein, the Chairman of Nigerian Governors Forum (NGF), Rotimi Amaechi of Rivers, however cautioned Nigerians not to be too hard on the London 2012 Olympic athletes.

He blamed their poor outing on poor and late preparation and called on the relevant stakeholders to ensure early preparation for every global competition.

Mr Amaechi also seized the opportunity to call on the Presidency to take the menace of polio as a matter of national emergency.

He decried the recent increase in the number of polio cases recorded as at the last count, and said the NGF would support the federal government in all regards in addressing the problem.

While responding on behalf of the Falconets, the team captain Gloria Ofoegbu thanked the president and presented him with a team jersey signed by all players and officials.

Ms Onaolapo, a powerlifter and world record holder who responded on behalf of the Paralympic athletes, also thanked the federal government for the gesture.

She promised that the athletes would continue to make the president and the country proud through more brilliant performances in the future.

The reception was attended by Vice-President Namadi Sambo, Senate President David Mark and Secretary to the Government of the Federation, Anyim Pius Anyim.

Governors Patrick Yakowa of Kaduna, Danbaba Suntai of Taraba, Idris Wada of Kogi, Theodore Orji of Abia, Martins Elechi of Ebonyi and Sullivan Chime of Enugu also attended the event.

Also in attendance were the Governors Isa Yuguda of Bauchi and Godswill Akpabio of Akwa Ibom, as well as the deputy governors of Bayelsa, Katsina, Jigawa, Gombe, Adamawa, Plateau and Kano States who represented their governors.