Stoke Mandeville recreates 1st Paralympic event on 70th anniversary
On the 70th anniversary of the first Stoke Mandeville Games, held on 29 July 1948, spinal injury patients recreated the very first Paralympic event – archery – in the original stadium in Great Britain.
“Seventy years ago it was just a few paraplegics from the spinal unit doing some archery,” said Eva Loeffler, daughter of Paralympic founder Sir Ludwig Guttman.
“In two years’ time there will be the Paralympics in Japan, with 5,000 competitors from all over the world. It’s amazing.”
Guttmann founded the British National Spinal Injuries Centre at Stoke Mandeville Hospital in 1944.
He organised the first Stoke Mandeville Games, an archery competition, on the same day as the start of the London 1948 Olympic Games.
By 1960, the event had become the Paralympic Games, welcoming over 400 athletes from 23 countries to compete across eight sports (including both archery and dartchery) in Rome, Italy.
The 70th anniversary archery event was organised by WheelPower. Eight spinal injury patients tried the sport, taking advice from reigning Paralympic Champion Jess Stretton and Paralympian Fred Stevens.
“I got involved here through a WheelPower camp. I tried archery and I loved it,” said Stretton.
“It was a big turning point for me. It was something to get me up and motivated, knowing that I could still do something even though I might not be able to walk very far.”
“I can still do something and be productive.”
Archery has been a part of the Paralympic Games since the first edition in 1960. It was the first sport included in the Stoke Mandeville Games, in 1948, the precursor to the modern Paralympics.