As if the triumphs of Yorkshire’s athletes at the Paralympic and Olympic Games in London in 2012 were not enough, the White Rose has come out a winner again, with ‘God’s own County’ becoming ‘Gold’s own county’ once more – with Yorkshire coming out on top in the British Polio Fellowship National Indoor Games held in Leicester on 22-24 March. Yorkshire scooped nine medals in total – five of them gold.
Supported by the likes of the Rt. Hon. Keith Vaz MP and Paralympic silver medallist and London 2012 hero James Crisp, the games were the annual opportunity for Fellowship members who had got through their regional heats to go head to head with over 140 fellow competitors from nine other counties comprising of East Midlands; Scotland; Home Counties; North of England; North West; South of England; Wales and Western; with Yorkshire coming out top overall.
Yorkshire golds came from David Howells in Standing Darts; Chris Bilton and Brenda Stewart in Dominoes; while Rosemary Bilton and Ken Edwards knocked the spots off the competition to secure 5s and 3s gold. Silver came for Joan Robson in Cribbage, who narrowly missed out on gold to legendary player and British Polio Fellowship stalwart Brian Rowley from the East Midlands. Ann Kay came a very creditable second in the Bowls; while Peter Beckett’s bronze in the Draughts was a vital contribution to the region’s nine medal tally, up against some excellent players from the East Midlands. Yorkshire’s main hope in the Kurling, Catherine Mitton, narrowly missed out, under fierce competition and some excellent play from the North West’s Bob McCarthy. Christine Lumb scored silver in the Scrabble, prompting a double celebration as her husband Gordon is the Games Maker, with overall responsibility for organising the Games.
The Games were followed by a gala dinner and awards ceremony on Saturday evening where gold silver and bronze winners were personally presented with their medals by Paralympian swimmer James Crisp, who inspired everyone with his own personal story of triumph over the adversity of Polio. After all the formal medal presentations and photos, James made himself available to have more informal photos taken with competitors, proudly wearing his own London 2012 silver medal.
Ted Hill, Chief Executive of the British Polio Fellowship, said: “Our warmest congratulations go out not only to our overall winners Yorkshire, but to every competitor and British Polio Fellowship member who came along. This year was undoubtedly our best games ever and proof that for many of our members, Polio and Post Polio Syndrome (PPS) has not hindered their determination to succeed. The games were played very much in the right spirit of competition mixed with fair play and this year’s success will be a spur to making the 2014 games even bigger and better again.”
While the Indoor Games have been held in Leicester for 10 years and in Walsall for as many years prior to that, all agree this year’s games had an extra special buzz. This was in part due to the Olympic efforts required from many just to get there in the snow and the star quality delivered through the support of James Crisp. Add in local MP Keith Vaz taking time out to lend his support and an ITV crew filming for local television all added some additional spice and gave competitors a small insight into the sorts of pressures faced by James and his fellow Paralympians in 2012.
“The increased interest in and coverage of this year’s National Indoor Games is very welcome and much appreciated,” added Ted Hill. “We have all felt real public support for our endeavours and this has clearly flowed from the heroics of James and his fellow Paralympians, who have done so much to give a positive profile to our competitors. Despite Polio and PPS, they continue to strive to fulfil their own dreams of achievement, and that this is something that not just those with Polio, but everyone can get behind and support.”