Paralympian runs up against all sorts of obstacles
A run of bad luck won’t stop Paralympian Matt Slade from realising his Beijing dream.
The 100m and 200m track specialist, who suffers from cerebral palsy on the right side of his body, had his car, wheelchair and custom-made shoes stolen in March.
A mountain bike was also stolen from his Mt Eden home last year.
“It’s been one thing after another,” he says.
While his car and the frame of his wheelchair were eventually recovered by po- lice, both were completely stripped of anything valuable.
But thanks to acts of kindness, the Paralympic 200m gold-medallist’s campaign is back on track.
Donors supplied a new pair of running shoes, new wheels for the frame of his chair and the use of a car while he prepared for the Paralympics in Beijing, which start tomorrow.
“Not many people go out of their way to be that generous, especially when talking about a disabled athlete,” he says.
Slade first started general fitness work to improve his health in 1997.
“My health was never that great. Then one day I decided if I went to the gym and started to work out it might help.”
But he soon found a natural talent for running, attending the Birmingham world championships after only eight months of competion.
As well as winning the 200m at the 2004 Athens games, he took a silver in the 200m and bronze in the 100m in Sydney four years earlier.
The 30-year-old is deter- mined to keep up with his younger rivals at his third games, though he acknowledges his style is more suited to slighty longer distances.
“Over the past 10 years, my reactions haven’t been the greatest, but you can make that up easier in the 200m.”
Despite his disadvantages, his times would challenge many able-bodied athletes.
Recently Slade has clocked 12 seconds in the 100m and 25 seconds in the 200m, which are close to his best times of 11.98 and 24.73.
That matches Super 14 rugby player Scott Waldrom’s 100m time of 12 sec- onds, and is not far behind sprinter Chris Donaldson’s New Zealand record, at 10.27 seconds.
Athletics coach Andrew MacLennan says: “He’s got good rhythm, which is important. A disability can throw off a runner’s rhythm.”
MacLennan thinks there could be some strong competition from the Chinese runners but has confidence in Slade’s ability.
“We’ve worked together for a while now. He knows what it takes to succeed.”
Slade will kick off his Paralympics campaign with the 100m next Friday.
Striding out: Paralympian Matt Slade gets in some practice before heading to Beijing.