Long jumper Ryan Raghoo on his Paralympic journey
20 April 2016
by Ryan Raghoo, a long jumper with cerebral palsy targeting the Rio Paralympic Games 2016
Growing up, I hated sport — and I still have terrible memories of being forced to take part at primary school when I was physically unable to compete with my peers.
I was around eight-year-old for the first sports day, I remember — not long after I had stopped using a wheelchair, for the first time in my life, to get around.
I was born under difficult conditions and left with permanent brain damage and a condition called cerebral palsy due to a number of errors made by the medical team delivering me.
I spent most of my early years in hospital, in a buggy or wheelchair, with doctors and medical specialists certain I would never walk.
My parents refused to accept that prognosis and for that I am grateful now.
But I was pushed by my school into sport a long time before I was ready.
That was traumatic. As was my experience at secondary school, when by contrast I was banned from participating in sport after it was deemed too dangerous for me.
By that stage, it would have been fine for me to play sport, and I wanted to, but instead I was excluded — forced to watch my friends from the sidelines.
These two experiences, though very different, will be all too familiar to many of you reading this.
My exposure to sprinting and now the long jump, where I am a British record holder, has done so much for my mobility (remember I was told I would never walk) and my confidence.
The status that comes with being an Olympian — or Paralympian, if you prefer — also provides a platform to communicate messages that transcend sport.
For me, I want to use this platform to fight for equality — equality for disabled people and all minorities.
Not everyone can target Rio this year of course, but when I compete for medals really I am competing to change perceptions of what disabled people are capable of.
We are all capable of participating in sport, whether that be boccia or boxing (just two of the sports I know Leonard Cheshire Disability connects people to up and down the UK), and in all areas of society.
The key to encouraging early participation lies in ensuring teachers and coaches are equipped with the training and empathy to introduce children to sport at the right time, at the right level, and in the right environment.