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Dual Amputee Aims for sledge gold

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Dual amputee aims for sledge gold

BBC News, Nottingham

A double amputee who has already run the New York marathon and captained a disabled cricket team is getting ready for sledge hockey at the Paralympics.

Richard Whitehead, 29, of Nottingham, was born with no legs below the knees.

Instead of stopping him from competing in sports, it seems to have driven him to higher and harder challenges.

"Seeing a dual leg amputee playing football is a bit of a shock but once they see me they change their minds," he said.

110% effort

Mr Whitehead is a sports college officer at Dayncourt School in Nottinghamshire, but spends hours training, exercising and getting ready for top-level competition.

"I like to play sports at 100mph and to give 110% - you've got to be in top shape or you might get injured," he said.

Sledge hockey is virtually identical to ice hockey but played on special sledges which are propelled by two wooden hockey sticks.

Each team has six players on the ice at one time and body-checking is allowed.

When he competes in marathons - he ran the New York Marathon in 2004 and the Robin Hood Half Marathon in 2005 - he uses specially-cushioned "C-sprints" made of metal.

"I went to a great comprehensive school - Colonel Frank Seely in Calverton - which encouraged me to take part in all kinds of activities and my parents who also supported me in anything I wanted to try out," he said.

He has played sledge hockey for four years and started after schoolmate Ian Warner, who is the GB captain, asked him to try out for the team.

"It is a full-contact sport for disabled people - I didn't think one existed and when I found out I wanted to experience it.

"There are opportunities for disabled athletes - you just have to grab them.

"I scored on my first appearance in a game against Germany in Nottingham that we lost 5-2, but I scored twice in the next game against them and we won 5-4. It was a great debut."

The British sledge hockey team plays its first game at the 2006 Paralympics on 11 March.

"You've got to be in top shape as it is hard on body and mind.

"The pinnacle of any sport is to play for your country at the world level - like the Paralympics.

"We don't want to come away without a medal - but I must say I have gone to bed dreaming about it!"

Taken from this page of the BBC NEws website.

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