Par­a­lympian runs up against all sorts of ob­sta­cles

Central Leader - - News - By Scott Mor­gan

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.

Photo: JA­SON OX­EN­HAM

Strid­ing out: Par­a­lympian Matt Slade gets in some prac­tice be­fore head­ing to Bei­jing.

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