Young wheelchair basketball players banned from charity race

Sheffield Steelers Wheelchair Basketball Club players, from left, Dan Kerkhoff, Mev O'Connor, Georgina Waft and Harrison Crawford.
Sheffield Steelers Wheelchair Basketball Club players, from left, Dan Kerkhoff, Mev O'Connor, Georgina Waft and Harrison Crawford.
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Young wheelchair basketball players in Sheffield have been left devastated after being banned from a charity race.

Junior members of Sheffield Steelers Wheelchair Basketball club wanted to emulate the senior players by taking part in a mini marathon in Nottingham.

For the last three years, players have raised vital money and gained some extra pre-season training by completing the Robin Hood Half Marathon.

This year junior members wanted to take part in the event’s mini marathon.

However, organisers have turned down their request for places because the youngsters, aged 11 to 17, pose an ‘unacceptable risk’ to other participants.

Lorraine Waring, club secretary, has hit out at the decision and believes it discriminates against wheelchair users.

She said: “The course is only a mile-and-a-half long. Many players can push that distance in a game.

“There were seven wanting to take part in wheelchairs, including one girl who is able bodied, with two adults assigned to do it too.

“It’s not as though they are incapable of pushing that distance and being aware of other people.”

“We have tried to speak to organisers to get an amicable solution which doesn’t exclude wheelchair users.

“The reaction from parents is one of horror. They are mortified their children aren’t being allowed to take part because they use a wheelchair instead of legs.”

Race organisers said the risk of accidents on a crowded course was too high to allow them take part.

They said the decision not to allow the young Sheffield wheelchair basketball players to take part was not taken lightly and they were disappointed the youngsters could not be accommodated.

Judith Manson, senior operations manager at marathon organisers Sweatshop Events, said: “It is always our intention to be as inclusive and accessible to as many participants as possible.

“Taking advice from our safety officer, we reviewed the course and considered their request in great depth.

“A separate wave was suggested for the Steelers half marathon team to follow the elite groups.

“Unfortunately, however, the mini marathon event does not allow the same flexibility for a separate wheelchair start.

“Therefore when considering the suitability and accessibility of the mini marathon course – it is accessible, but is not suitable.

“With 2,000 participants expected in this event, some as young as four years old, safety of all participants has shaped our decision making.

“As the wheelchair team is likely to be faster than some of the mini marathon runners, they will need to overtake children in a condensed, crowded course resulting in a high risk of accidents happening.”