Story 86

Adrenaline and thrill

When I was told that my legs would never fully recover – that despite 43 operations to fix various problems with the bones in my body, there was nothing more they could do – it was sport that pulled me out of depression.

Nick Coombs

An ex-colleague told me to contact the Bank Workers’ Charity, which works in partnership with Leonard Cheshire Disability, and ask for funding for a wheelchair racing bike.

He knew I’d always been a sport nut. I used to be a good road racer cyclist, and I played rugby for Saracens youth team – sport is part of who I am. He also knew I had a competitive streak!

The wheelchair bike provided the inspiration to change my life: it gave me that adrenaline, and the thrill to do more again.

I remember going along to an Olympic legacy day — set up after the buzz of London 2012 — and this was when I started playing wheelchair basketball. I was ringing up all my mates and saying, ‘Come down and play. This is great!’

Then I suggested to a friend we set up a wheelchair rugby club. At the start, we were complete novices with no funding and no wheelchairs (they cost £3,000 each). But we got funding eventually and the Dorset Destroyers were born.

Last year, we played in the BT Super Series in our first ever season. And we came second! Sport can bring people together, so we play loads of great friendly matches nowadays – I really enjoyed the games against Royal Marines, Help for Heroes and also Invictus Team UK.

Sport has helped many of our team through difficult times and changed their outlook on life. After a car accident left her partially paralysed, Grace got back on track through wheelchair rugby. At Parallel London – the accessible charity run held in September – Grace walked in an exo-skeleton for one kilometre, and in record-breaking time!

When I was doing wheelchair racing, a lot of people asked me if there were any disability sports clubs in the local area. So now we are developing our own disability sports hub in Poole, and aiming to build a centre of Disability Sporting Excellence.

Along with our wheelchair rugby team, we’re setting up wheelchair basketball, wheelchair tennis, self-defence and Target Sprint – combining racing and shooting. We want to show people that not all sports have to be safe and gentle! We want to expand the centre to offer even more sports.

Without Leonard Cheshire and the Bank Workers’ charity, none of this would have happened. Before all this, I was really low. Now when things are hurting or not working properly, I know I can get into a sports chair and be free, and have a laugh with my team mates.

Sport has helped many of our team through difficult times and changed their outlook on life.