Disabled Games: A special weekend

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Although Dart, who swims for Reading Cygnets, failed narrowly, he was full of praise for the poolside support he received while Brady, a mere division C LTA-ranked player, was delighted with his 8-5 win on the tennis courts.Both athletes were taking part in the three-day series of events which culminated in the annual awards ceremony at the Merton Hotel on Saturday night.By then two awards had already been presented, the first, on Friday night to the most improved swimmer of the year, Robbie Malzard.

Malzard, aged 44, who has been a member of the JSAD elite swimming group since it was set up five years ago, previously won the Kellogg’s National Swimmer of the Year Award in 1999 before suffering a dip in form through ill-health.Nevertheless he has battled back, and was judged to have made the most improvement during 2003 by his coach Melissa Sheehan.He was presented with his trophy by Channel swimmer Helen Barker.Meanwhile, for only the fourth time in the 18-year history of the Games, a special merit award was presented during Saturday afternoon’s opening ceremony to John Le Seelleur.Le Seelleur, a gymnast with the Mont à l’Abbé Special Gymnastics Club, is a former winner of the JSAD Sports Personality of the Year Award in 2001.This year, however, the 17-year-old was in awesome form in the World Special Olympics Gymnastics competition in Dublin where he won a gold medal for floor and all-round; silver for rings and vault; and bronze for pommel, high bar and parallel bars.The JSAD have submitted Le Seelleur’s name to the Advisory Council for Sport for consideration for inclusion on the Jersey sporting roll of honour board.However, the top award, for Sports Personality of the Year, went to Theresa Coughlan, aged 40, who has been a member of JSAD since the association was formed in 1985.Despite having learning difficulties and suffering from poor, uncorrected eyesight, Coughlan captained Jersey in the 1997 ISSF Games and was presented with her award by Ray Chinnery on behalf of the JSAD.Paul Patterson, chairman of the JSAD, presented the Tim Collins Memorial Trophy for the Wheelchair Sports person of the year to Diana Bowles.Although she now lives in London and the award was presented to Kevin McDonnell, Wheelchair Sport Manager for JSAD on her behalf, Bowles was a member of the wheelchair tennis team in the 2001 Games.Among her achievements are winning the Swedish Open singles and doubles tennis tournaments in 1997; being runner-up in the Swiss and Austrian Open championships in 1998 and winning the Czech doubles title in 2000.

She also represented Great Britain in Italy in 2001.The team of the year, who received the Vernon Tomes Memorial Trophy, were the Mont à l’Abbé Special Gymnastics Club.In presenting the award and a cheque for £250 to club members Matthew Park, Simon Routier, Rui Reis, Ricky Blampied and Peter Bougeard, JSAD patron Brian Ahier pointed out that although the club won the award in 2000, the gymnasts are, without doubt, the most successful organisation affiliated to JSAD.And, in nominating the club for the award, the JSAD general committee had to take into account that the gymnasts ‘are now quite simply the best Special Gymnastics Club in the United Kingdom’.Meanwhile 19-year-old Rita Vieira received the Graeme Pitman Memorial Trophy for Endeavour and a cheque for £100 from Freda Pitman.This was the second time that this award has been presented, and it was pointed out that although she has muscular sclerosis and is unable to participate in any kind of able bodied sport, she was determined not to let her illness get in the way as she took up both wheelchair tennis and basketball.

Vieira’s determination was such that she also had to overcome another obstacle – all the other members of the wheelchair basketball team are men.However, her perseverance and her determination not to let her illness prevent her from taking up wheelchair sports meant that, in the eyes of the JSAD, she was this year’s rightful recipient of the award.Finally, a new award was presented at the Merton – the JSAD patron’s award for coach of the year.

On behalf of the Association, the patrons, the committee and members, Robert Le Brocq presented this award to John Grady from the Mont a l’Abbé Special Gymnastics Club.As a founder member of the club, in 1991, while still head teacher at Mont a l’Abbé School, Grady’s enthusiasm and his desire for the club members to reach the highest levels possible in their sport, have been reflected in the club’s achievements.It was pointed out that the club effectively dominates the Great Britain special gymnasts scene and has produced no fewer than two world champions; and although Grady is the first to praise the other teachers in the club, it was felt that for his enthusiasm, ability and vision, which have seen the club go from strength to strength both nationally, and internationally, he was the rightful recipient of this new award.

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