After an accident paralysed Ben Pritchard from the rib cage down, it was the sport of rowing that gave him back his independence and the ability to play sport at a high level again – and now the Mumbles-born athlete is encouraging youngsters to come and try different sports at the Para Sport Festival on Monday 1 August.
There are over 20 different sports to have a go at – each one brought to Swansea Bay by the insport Series and National Governing Bodies, with qualified coaches on hand to give expert advice.
All you have to do is register at parasportfestival.co.uk and come and have a go!
And if you don’t like one sport, you can try another. And another. And another!
In fact, Ben didn’t care too much for rowing when he first tried it during his rehab at Stoke Mandeville Hospital. But he found it gave him the freedom to compete again and it was mentally, as well as physically, very rewarding. And the main reason he eventually fell in love with rowing was that it got him out of his wheelchair and brought back a lot of the independence that he felt he’d lost.
He was good at rowing too, and with the help of Andrew Williams, the President of City of Swansea Rowing Club, Ben was invited to join the British Rowing’s Para Development Squad in 2017.
Making an impressive International debut for the GB Rowing Team in 2019, Ben won two bronze medals at the Gavirate International Regatta before securing a further bronze on his World Cup debut in Poznan and finishing fourth at the World Championships in Austria. Then in 2021 he won silver at the Varese European Championships.
Then, just five years after watching the Paralympics from his hospital bed in Stoke Mandeville, Ben made his debut at the Paralympic Games in Tokyo, competing in the PR1 men’s single sculls. Paris 2024 was the aim, but the opportunity to gain experience saw him set a new Paralympic record in the repechage and finish fifth in strong headwinds in the Final.
For his magnificent achievements, Ben won the Disability Sport Wales Athlete of the Year award in 2021 – paying tribute to City of Swansea Rowing Club, Welsh Rowing, Disability Sport Wales and British Rowing.
“When I was five, I was diagnosed with a congenital cataract, which at that time meant that I couldn’t compete in any contact sports – but luckily growing up on The Gower provided many different alternatives,” says Ben.
“I went on to represent Wales at Cross Country, and I’d always loved the water and having learnt to sail at Mumbles Yacht Club I also represented Wales and GB in various boat classes. This naturally progressed into Triathlon events.
“But unfortunately, whilst out on my ‘bike one day in 2016, an accident damaged my spinal cord and paralysed me from the rib cage down.
“I’d never considered rowing before, but it was part of my rehab at Stoke Mandeville Hospital. I didn’t like it at first, but it got me out of my wheelchair and was mentally as well as physically very rewarding.
“Since then, I’ve become a Paralympian and I’m focused on winning a medal in Paris in 2024.
“You cannot underestimate how life-changing sport can be, so I’d like to invite everyone to come down to the Para Sport Festival on Monday 1 August and just try out different sports at the Para Sport Festival.”
And if you come on Monday 1 August, you’ll have the opportunity to meet Ben – as he’ll be there on the opening day of the event.
Furthermore, all those who register and come and have a go at sport on the day will be given a free goodie bag, courtesy of insport Series partners SPAR.
And as part of the week-long Para Sport Festival, there will be a special Indoor Rowing Welsh Para Open tournament, which will take place on Sunday 7 August. The event is designed to provide children, young people and adults with the opportunity to compete, whether for the first time or as an experienced indoor rower.
About the Para Sport Festival (1-7 August)
The week-long Para Sport Festival begins with an insport Series event on Monday 1 August at the Swansea Bay Sports Park (Swansea University, Sketty Lane, Swansea, SA2 8QB) – which will provide grassroots and initial participation opportunities for children, young people and adults.
The format of the insport Series event will enable participants, coaches and a wider network of volunteers to expand their experiences, access sports that they may not have considered as available or accessible, and make connections with local clubs providing great, sustainable opportunities within an inclusive environment.
Over 20 sports will be available for participants to participate in, from athletics to wheelchair rugby, all delivered by local insport Clubs and National Governing Bodies of Sport. These opportunities all link to a local pathway into established local inclusive clubs (insport Clubs) from across south-west Wales.
The Para Sport Festival is free to access and information and registration details are available at: parasportfestival.co.uk.
For more information, please contact Paul Evans DSW Communications Officer on: email@example.com / 07710 743167