I love sports mainly soccer, tennis, athletics, basketball. Watching the recently ended IAAF World Champions in Beijing brought so much joy to my heart. My favourite track events are the 100m, 200m and 4x100m relays both mens and women. I can’t describe the feeling I get from watching these races, I just can’t explain the euphoria. The 100m mens event usually gets to me the most but this time around it was different, it was the womens 100m race. Ya’ll should have seen me. It didn’t matter that I was in the middle of a conversation. I would literally put my phone and laptop to the side to focus on the race from the heats right through to the finals. I kid you not, I watched that 100m womens final A LOT of times.
I have watched these events a lot of times over the years since I was a child. We used to watch a lot of sport growing up with my family. That’s where my love of sport began. However there was something different about this race. Something I connected with or rather something it reminded me of ATHLETICS DAY IN PRIMARY SCHOOL :-).
When I was a student at St Giles School (special needs school in Harare, Zimbabwe) I thoroughly enjoyed athletics day for the mere fact that I could participate in the day like every other student. I absolutely loved this about the school. Yes we all had disabilities but we still had an athletics day every single year. What a great way to celebrate children with disabilities and make them feel special.
We were all divided up into different sporting houses. I was in the yellow house which was called Kudu. On aths day (athletics day), we would all come dressed in our respective house colours and white shorts. I participated in the girls 50m race for girls on crutches. I remember coming first in this race when I was in grade 1, 2 and 4. I was so hurt and disappointed in the 3rd grade when my friend won the race. I even cried. The rivalry was that intense.
I vividly remember my last aths day in grade 4. I was so determined to win. I told myself come rain or thunder I was going to win. When the race started, I knew I had to do whatever it took to win including cheating. Yes you heard right, I cheated. Well technically it wasn’t “cheating cheating” but our physio therapists would say otherwise. Instead of walking straight, I crossed my legs and ran to the finishing line. You see at that time, I was NOT allowed to walk by crossing my legs as I do now. The physio therapists wanted me to walk straight so that my legs could become stronger. When I reached the finishing line, the head physio had a few stern words for me but hey I didn’t care. I had won the race, I beat my friends and that’s all that mattered. The rest of the day was filled with other activities such as watching the older kids mostly the hearing impaired run and play tag of war. Man that was always fun to watch.
What I loved the most about these days is that every child who was capable of doing something participated in one event or another. The visually impaired students would race against each other being guided by a teacher or another member of staff such as a physio therapist. The students on wheelchairs would race against each other. The hearing impaired students were always the highlight of the day. Despite their lack of hearing and speech, they were physically strong so you can only imagine how competitive their events were. They ran the 100m, relays and did the tag of war.
That year in grade 4, there was horse riding after the official aths events were over. I wanted to get into a horse but I was so scared. The head physio therapist carried me onto the horse and guided the horse whilst I rode the horse. I can never forget the feeling I felt. WOW is all I can say. Sadly at the end of that year I was transferred to a local primary school where I was the only student with a disability. I didn’t even attend athletics day cause it was on a Saturday and since I wasn’t participating in any events, the teachers felt there was no need for me to attend. Imagine how horrible it was come Monday morning when I had to hear from other students how the aths day had been.
Not being able to participate in any sporting events was the hardest part about being in main stream schools. Looking back at it when I was in high school I really could have played tennis or squash but no-one ever thought of including me. I remember being a little form 1 during PE (physical education) trying to play tennis with a classmate and the way the PE teacher looked at me like child you are wasting your time. I vowed after that not to try any sports ever again. As a result PE became a free period for me where I would just sit on a bench at the sporting field whilst I watched my classmates play.
It really sucks now to see my peers with disabilities play sports and I don’t. I have a friend who plays wheelchair basketball and is really good at it. I just wish someone had taken their time to coach me but instead the PE teacher didn’t even bother show me how to hold a tennis racquet.
So why am I writing about this? To show the world that children with disabilities also have dreams of playing sport. Just because I have a disability does not mean, I don’t want to play sport. I do, I really do. All we need is simply someone who is patient and willing to invest their time to show us the ropes.
Children with disabilities also have dreams of playing sport. All we need is simply someone who is patient and willing to invest their time to show us the ropes.