Torfaen Paralympian set for Kilimanjaro climb
9:32am Friday 13th September 2013 in News
A FORMER Welsh Paralympian who is set to tackle Mount Kilimanjaro in his wheelchair for charity completed a successful training climb a little closer to home.
John Harris, 67, from Sebastopol, enjoyed a successful career as a Paralympian and competed in five Paralympic Games.
His highlights were winning gold in the discus in the 1984 Games, and claiming silver in the discus and bronze in the pentathlon at the Seoul games in 1988.
Now, 50 years after being paralysed at the age of 18 after falling 18 metres from a fairground ride, he is preparing to tackle Mount Kilimanjaro. Despite still waiting for his off-road chair, it has not stopped him training and On Saturday he and a small team climbed Pen-y-Fan. At 886 metres (2,907 ft) above sea-level, it is the highest peak in Britain south of the Snowdonia mountain range and the highest in South Wales.
He said: “It’s virtually impossible for a wheelchair user to get up there due to its steepness and it took a lot of pushing and pulling. But when we reached the summit it was a fantastic sense of achievement and I can’t wait for Mount Kilimanjaro.” He explained that the off-road chair will make the climb a lot easier as currently every time he hits a bump in rough terrain with his current small wheeled chair it throws him out.
He said: “The team and I have just gelled so well, and there is a lot of banter and encouragement.”
It took the team one hour and 50 minutes to reach the summit, and about the same to descend. Mr Harris said: “It rained on the way down but it didn’t dampen my spirits. Along the route strangers kept stopping to encourage me. It was just great.”
He is not a stranger to a challenge with his long distance experience including completing the London Marathon in 1987 and twice participating in Push Around Wales, which saw him cover 600 miles in 37 days.
He goes out weekly covering 13 mile routes along the canal to build up his muscle and cardio strength.
Snow-capped Mount Kilimanjaro in Tanzania is Africa’s highest peak, standing at 19,336 feet.
Mr Harris, who will be 68 when he takes on the challenge, and a team of eight are looking at tackling the Kilimanjaro Marangu route on October 14.
It is the shortest route, but has a low success rate due to lack of time to acclimatise.
The team’s effort is to raise funds for the charity Dreams and Wishes that provides gifts and holidays for seriously ill children and their families. He said: “I’m sure that I can do it, as the children that the charity help are my inspiration and the thought of them benefitting keeps me going.”
So far, Mr Harris has raised £15,451 but he hopes to reach £50,000.
For more information and to sponsor John Harris visit http://kilimanjarojohn.blogspot.co.uk or www.justgiving.com/fullcircleltd
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