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Former Team GB Paralympian Andy Barrow chats to Wooden Spoon

Wooden Spoon caught up with retired GB Wheelchair Rugby player Andy Barrow to get his take on Rio 2016 Paralympics and the forthcoming tournament…

Playing at a Paralympics

“To play wheelchair rugby at the Paralympics is a tremendous honour. It is the pinnacle of where you are in your sport. It is the end point of four year’s hard work. It is the biggest occasion in our calendar.

“To be Captain at Beijing was the biggest honour. It is my proudest moment leading the team out to the world watching and to be welcomed by huge crowds.

“As a professional sports person the physical training is done. It is the mental pressure that is at its peak. There are so many exciting elements to it too. The team launch, receiving your kit and receiving your caps. Then 1,000 days to go, 100 days to go, 10 days to go and it’s nearly there. And everyone is getting excited.”

That ‘tunnel moment’

“When you come through the tunnel it is such an emotionally charged environment. You are scared half to death. But you need your nerves to play a good game. You feel excitement, anticipation and you just want to take it all in. When you come out, there are the colours, the sights and looking out from your family.

“It can be overwhelming, especially the first time around. It was my third games at London 2012. That energy from the crowd really helped me. I drank it all in for a couple of minutes. Then it’s time to get your game face on and move into professional mode. As you prepare to play the game, you could be anywhere, its about focusing on the win.

“The opening ceremony is where you can really let your hair down. There is no consequence. It’s just a celebration. It takes you a couple of days to get over that.”

Wheelchair rugby is growing in popularity

“There seems to be a real interest in wheelchair rugby. People love the contact and they love the murderball story. Wheelchair rugby really captivated the home crowd at the London Paralympics. It looks brutal but is so synonymous with abled bodied rugby and it being a big tough sport.

“Wheelchair rugby is about the wider wheelchair rugby family too. A lot of the men and women are bonded via adversity. People come together and work and play as a team.

“What’s great about organisations like Wooden Spoon is that it stops wheelchair rugby being so fragmented. As the sport grows and more people get involved there can be more clubs that are focused on fun and there is still a place for the elite athletes to train and play professionally.

“By supporting Wooden Spoon’s campaign you are helping encourage more young people get involved in the game.”

Sport is a game changer

“Sport has been such a huge part of my life. At 17 I was injured playing rugby and without learning what I had learnt previously from playing sport I don’t know if I would have got through it. It was my rugby family that got me through.

“Wheelchair rugby is a way to push your boundaries in a controlled environment. You learn about winning and losing. You learn how to get on with different kinds of people and you learn about being part of a team.”

Team GB players to watch out for

“Jim Roberts has been a revelation. He was a rugby player before he got meningitis. He really knows how to galvanise a team.

“Chris Ryan is the current captain. He was a former golfer and is a great leader.

“Johnny Cogan is returning for his fourth games. He is one of our best players. He is a quiet leader.”

 

We are raising money to fund a new wheelchair rugby chair for each Wheelchair Rugby Club in the UK and Ireland – that’s 19 chairs for 19 Clubs. Find out how you can get involved.