Sledge Hockey Taster Sessions in Milton Keynes

Firefox_Screenshot_2014-11-13T17-41-17.041ZWith the grand re-opening of their Milton Keynes ice rink, Planet Ice have set up a series of sledge hockey taster sessions, offering the opportunity for people to come and try the paralympic sport for the first time.

Sledge hockey is a variation of ice hockey in which players are seated in a metal sledge with blades on the base, propelling themselves using twin hockey sticks, shooting pucks as they go.  Designed specifically for people with lower body impairments who are unable to play standing ice hockey, the sport is fast, full-contact and extremely fun to play and watch.

The sessions are being run by GB Sledge Hockey Head Coach Andrew Linton, who will be assisted on the ice by a number of players, including current GB Captain Ian Warner as well as GB players Darren Brown, Jon Le Galloudec and Tyler Christopher.  Jon and Tyler are both military personnel who were injured while serving abroad and became involved with sledge hockey as a form of rehabilitation.

Coach Linton is excited about the sessions: “This is a fantastic chance to bring sledge hockey to people who may not have been able to try it previously. The newly refurbished rink is a perfect place to hold these sessions and I’m looking forward to seeing the potential talent that arises from them.”

The sessions are completely free, and are open to anyone – male or female, disabled or able-bodied – over the age of 14. All equipment will be provided by the British Sledge Hockey Association and Planet Ice, including sledges. If you would like to give sledge hockey a try, the sessions will be held at Planet Ice Milton Keynes at the following times:

  • Wednesday 19th November 9pm-10pm
  • Wednesday 26th November 9pm-10pm
  • Wednesday 3rd December 9pm-10pm

You can pre-book your place on one of the sessions at the Planet Ice Milton Keynes Website.

More information on sledge hockey can be found at www.sledgehockey.co.uk
More information on Planet Ice can be found at www.planet-ice.co.uk

Hull Daily Mail Sporting Champion

On Thursday 6th November, the Hull Daily Mail Sporting Champions Awards took place, with sporting fans from across the city coming together to celebrate some of the best, most hard-working and most deserving athletes around.

Matt Clarkson with the Kingston Kestrels

Matt Clarkson with the Kingston Kestrels

As announced a couple of weeks ago, one of the three finalists for the Disabled Athlete of the Year was our own Matt Clarkson, who was competing against two players from the East Riding Electric Eels, a powerchair football team.

While we obviously agree that Kizzy Blue Wade and Kai Gill from the Eels are fantastic athletes, everyone involved with sledge hockey was rooting for Matt to win. The commitment and dedication he has shown to both the Kingston Kestrels and to the GB team made him our firm favourite. Sure enough, towards the end of the evening, it was Matt standing up on the stage receiving the award.

Disabled Athlete of the Year

Disabled Athlete of the Year

But no matter how proud everyone from the BSHA and the Kestrels were, Matt was even more pleased with the result.

It’s an honour to have been awarded Disabled Athlete of the Year award from the Hull Daily Mail, sponsored by Spire Hull and East Yorkshire Hospital. Not only is great to be recognised for my personal sporting achievements but also to have sledge hockey recognised at a Hull and East Yorkshire wide event.

We’re sure that the new trophy will take pride of place with Matt, and will hopefully soon be accompanied by a medal from the IPC World Championships!

GB Heading to Sweden

1392007_603131566420871_548905630_nWith the recent announcement that Sweden will be the host for the 2015 World Championships Pool B in March, GB players and staff are ramping up the training to ensure that they are in the best possible shape to come away with a medal.

GB will be competing against four other teams, South Korea, Slovakia, Poland and Sweden, all of whom will be battling for not only a gold medal, but the chance to be promoted to the coveted Pool A for the next round of World Championships in 2017.

A win in March will put the GB team in a fantastic position in the run up to the 2018 Winter Paralympics in Pyeongchang.  After the disappointment of not qualifying for Sochi, there is no doubt that the team will be fighting hard every step of the way.

Head Coach for the team, Andrew Linton, has no doubt that the team will be doing everything they can to win.

Everyone involved with the GB team always looks forward to the World Championships, and they’re a major part of our annual calendar. The players train hard all season for this chance and they all want to be able to make up for a disappointing result in [the Paralympic Qualifiers in] Italy.

The GB squad will be training regularly over the next few months and the final lineup for the team will be confirmed closer to the time, but for now, it’s all hands on deck.

Getting to Ostersund, Sweden won’t be possible though without some help.  As with many winter sports, there is a severe lack of funding available. While the BSHA has various fundraising activities in the pipeline, the team is also looking for some corporate sponsors.

If you’d like your company to support the team, and you want to know that you’re helping some of our best athletes to realise their dreams of representing their country, please get in touch with us, either by email at communications@sledgehockey.co.uk or through the form on the contact page.  There are a number of different sponsorship opportunities available and we’re sure we can come up with something to benefit both your company and the GB team.

New Captain for the Kestrels

Matt Woollias [Photo Courtesy of Jake Oakley]

Over in Hull, the Kingston Kestrels have had a few weeks away from training to refocus themselves and get prepared for next season.  Along with an enhanced commitment to recruitment, they have also been making some changes to the team itself.

For the past few years, Ian Warner, one of the most experienced sledge hockey players in the country, has worn the C on his jersey.  But now he’s decided it’s time to hand the role over to someone else – 25 year old Matt Woollias.

Matt is one of the newer players in the league, having come into sledge hockey after a cancer diagnosis led to his leg being amputated.  An avid footballer, he wasn’t prepared to give up sports entirely, and soon discovered that the ice held as much excitement for him as a football pitch did.

Now four and half years clear of cancer, with international experience under his belt and a strong determination to succeed, he is thrilled to be offered the captaincy for the team he loves.

It’s a great honour to be named captain after such a short time in the sport. I am relishing the challenge and hope to help the team to silverware next season. It will be difficult to follow in the footsteps of Ian who has been a fantastic captain for the club over the years.

So while the roster of the Kestrels will look a little different next season, the team will still have the same aspirations they’ve always had – play hard, win silver.

If you’d like to check out the Kestrels – or any of the other teams – and give sledge hockey a try yourself, check out their team page here on the website, or visit them directly on Facebook or Twitter.

From the Rink to the Pool

Jon at the US Warrior Games

Jon at the US Warrior Games

Peterborough Phantoms player Jon Le Galloudec swapped his sledge for swimming trunks a couple of weeks ago when he joined more than 100 other UK Armed Forces personnel at the first ever Invictus Games.

Wounded in Iraq 7 years ago when he was shot in the spine by a sniper, Jon was told by doctors that he wouldn’t walk again. Not willing to accept that as an option, he pushed himself every day, until he was defying expectations.

It was at Stoke Mandeville that I was told I would never walk again, however, me being me,  I stubbornly ignored them, and two months after I was shot I took my first wobbly steps. The first time I walked I was in tears, my mum was in tears, even the nurses were in tears – I just didn’t think it would ever happen for me.  I was told that I would always be in a wheelchair so walking out of the hospital, three months later, and proving them wrong, was one of the best days of my life.

Jon with his Invictus medals

Jon with his Invictus medals

Today, with the help of pioneering leg splints from a company called Ottobock, he is not only walking, but has taken up running again.  The splints, which are funded by Help for Heroes, work by storing energy in the carbon fibre frame. This energy is then returned as the user steps, acting like a spring to support the movement.

Last month, Jon added another achievement to his ever-growing list – competing in the first ever Invictus Games in London. The brainchild of HRH Prince Harry, the Games were modelled on the US Warrior Games after he’d visited them in Colorado in 2013.  Bringing wounded, injured and sick service personnel together in a huge sporting event, it was the type of challenge that Jon thrives on.  Having already won a bronze medal at the Warrior Games representing the British Armed Forces team, he started training for the selection trials.

Unfortunately, the lingering issues related to his disability meant that Jon was in a lot of pain during his training, including developing a chest infection that left him – literally – falling onto Prince Harry’s lap at one of the pre-Invictus events.  Setting him back with his training, Jon was concerned that he hadn’t made the team, but in mid-August the final 130-strong British Armed Forces Team was announced, and he was thrilled to be included in that number.

Taking part in 4 swimming races, Jon knew it was going to be hard to win, but that wasn’t the main reason for wanting to take part.

It may not have been about the winning for Jon, but when he stood on the podium to receive the first of his two bronze medals, it was still a pretty amazing moment. On top of that, and potentially more importantly, he managed to beat his own personal best times in all four races. He also proved, without a shadow of a doubt, that he wasn’t going to let the events of June 2007 defeat him.

The Invictus Games is all about the taking part, unlike the Paralympics, which is about winning and being the best in the world. You see, sometimes the bravest and hardest thing is actually stepping up to that start line to compete. Especially when you think about what each and every competitor will have overcome simply to get to that point.

You can read more about Jon at his blog, or find him on Twitter @JBAInspiration.  You can also see him in person playing with the Peterborough Phantoms Sledge Hockey Team!

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