Leeds was delighted to welcome the return of four local Paralympians at a celebration on the steps of Civic Hall on Thursday.
A passionate crowd filled Millenium square and listened as each Paralympian spoke about their experiences of London 2012, including swimmer and Leeds graduate Claire Cashmore. Also present were wheelchair racer Hannah Cockroft, cyclist David Stone MBE and powerlifter Ali Jawad. Despite their elevation to stardom, the athletes were humble and repeatedly thanked Leeds citizens for their support during the Games.
Noting the large attendance of fans with physical disabilities, the compere, Radio Aire’s Richard Williams, asked each Paralympian their advice for people wanting to get involved in sport. The athletes – who all train in Leeds – were unanimous and urgent in their response: “whatever sport you are into, come and give it a go.”
Each reminded the audience of the sports facilities in Leeds, echoing the earlier comments of Lord Mayor of Leeds Anne Castle who acknowledged the “excellent” contribution of the John Charles Centre for Sport, the University of Leeds and Leeds Met, which all “played their part” in Yorkshires Olympic and Paralympic success, alongside some “splendid coaches”.
A cascade of ribbon and confetti showered a euphoric crowd and brought the celebration to a close. The Paralympic and Olympic Games have shown Yorkshire to be a region bursting with sporting talent. Indeed, this humble North-East region of the UK achieved the same number of gold medals as Australia. Those with even the most remote attachment to the Games will have been moved by the sense of local and nation pride that they invoked.
Words and Images: Leo Garbutt