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London 2012 parade – Olympic and Paralympic stars

Lap of honour! Stars of our stunning summer get set for London's biggest ever street party

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UPDATED:

10:36 GMT, 10 September 2012

London will bid farewell to a stunning summer of sport on Monday when Britain's Olympic and Paralympic heroes meet their adoring public on the streets of the capital.

The likes of Mo Farah, Jessican Ennis, Tom Daley and Greg Rutherford, as well as Hannah Cockroft, Sophie Christiansen, Jonnie Peacock ands Ellie Simmonds, will travel from Mansion House to Buckingham Palace, cheered on by up to one million of those still gripped by Games fever.

The parade will be the biggest of its kind in British history with crowds expected to exceed the 750,000 who saw England’s Ashes victory parade in 2005 and the Rugby World Cup parade in 2003.

Scroll down to see the route the parade will take through the streets of London

Getting ready to party: Mo Farah was in high spirits as he and millions more descended on London for an epic street party

Getting ready to party: Mo Farah was in high spirits as he and millions more descended on London for an epic street party on the streets of the capital city

Getting ready to party: Mo Farah was in high spirits as he and millions more descended on London for an epic street party on the streets of the capital city

More than 90 per cent of British medal winners among 750 athletes carried on 21 floats in celebration of what has been termed Our Greatest Team.

Record-breaking cyclist Sir Chris Hoy, four times sailing gold medallist Ben Ainslie, 5,000m and 10,000m champion Farah, heptathlon winner Ennis, cyclists Laura Trott and Victoria Pendleton, equestrian star Charlotte Dujardin, boxing sensation Nicola Adams, long jumper Rutherford and taekwondo winner Jade Jones are all expected to take part.

Prince Edward, who is patron of the British Paralympic Association, will pay tribute to the Olympic and Paralympic heroes who have won 185 medals compared with 149 four years ago in Beijing.

It is believed the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge, who attended many of the Team GB and Paralympics GB triumphs, are trying to rearrange their schedule to attend.

Thanks for your help: Prime Minister David Cameron will be in attendance as will 14,000 volunteers

Thanks for your help: Prime Minister David Cameron will be in attendance as will 14,000 volunteers

The parade begins at 1.30pm at Mansion House and travels along Queen Victoria Street and Cannon Street, allowing City workers to leave their desks at lunchtime to cheer the athletes.

It will pass St Paul’s Cathedral and continue along Fleet Street and into the Strand before pausing at Trafalgar Square, where the largest crowd is likely to congregate.

From there, the floats will travel through Admiralty Arch for the final stretch down the Mall, the one section of the parade closed to the general public.

Entrance to the Mall has been reserved for 14,000 ticketholders including the volunteers and military personnel who staffed the Games, alongside the athletes’ coaches, families and friends.

The Red Arrows and British Airways will take part in a flypast at 1,000ft over the Mall and Buckingham Palace.

The flame-coloured ‘Firefly’ A319 BA aircraft used to bring the Olympic Flame to the UK at the start of the Games will now display a huge ‘thank you’ message on its underbelly.

Guide to the victory parade

Paralympians can shine brightly on any stage – Des Kelly

These real diamonds can shine brightly on any stage

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UPDATED:

23:45 GMT, 7 September 2012

If you watched the Paralympics without your jaw dropping open in wonderment, or an awestruck tear collecting in the corner of an eye, then I suggest you may have had your soul amputated.

What a triumph the 2012 Paralympic Games have been; what a momentous event for the country. Britain can feel thoroughly proud of itself for staging yet another unforgettable spectacle.
But, from this point on, everything changes. It has to.

Oscar Pistorius broke down barriers as the first amputee to compete at the Olympics alongside able-bodied competitors. Now the sport has the chance to go a giant carbon-fibre stride further.

Star quality: Hannah Cockroft celebrates winning her 200 metres race on a thrilling Thursday night of Paralympic action

Star quality: Hannah Cockroft celebrates winning her 200 metres race on a thrilling Thursday night of Paralympic action

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If I were a Diamond League promoter writing out cheques for the likes of Usain Bolt to stroll to 200m victories at meetings across Europe, I’d be considering a punt on staging more Paralympic races as part of the programme. They do happen on occasion at the moment, more as a novelty than a permanent fixture. But just look at the value athletes like Hannah Cockroft, David Weir and Jonnie Peacock would bring to any stadium.

Their historic treble success on Thursday night wasn’t so much an echo of London 2012’s ‘Super Saturday’ as a full-volume reprise of that truly golden evening.

Don't tell me a crowd wouldn't want to
watch Weir in any stadium. He had 80,000 people screaming him home on
Thursday night in an 800m wheelchair event that had all the tactical
twists of a two-lap foot race, plus a Formula One-style crash on the
second corner and some brutal Ben Hur wheel-to-wheel brinkmanship. It
was epic stuff.

While Bolt and Yohan Blake avoid one another in Diamond League sprints so they can both collect a winner’s bounty, I’d be just as happy to pay to see Peacock, the fastest Paralympian in history, take on all comers in a time that is just a few tenths of a second off his more celebrated contemporaries, despite the inconvenient absence of one leg.

Certainly, the tension before the T44
100m final between Peacock, Pistorius and Co was reminiscent of the
night Bolt faced Blake on the same track. With a nailbiting false start
and Peacock bringing the crowd to a complete hush beforehand, it was
laden with drama. The six million who tuned in to watchChannel 4 agree. Promoters take note. The changes are already beginning to happen and the boundaries continue to blur.

The Rugby World Cup 2015 organisers this week recruited Debbie Jevans, the London Olympics director of sport, and talks are already underway to try to incorporate Paralympic rugby, or ‘Murderball’ as it is commonly known, into the programme.

This is not a sop to political correctness or some box-ticking exercise in political correctness. The public is demanding it.

Unforgettable: ParalympicsGB served up a memorable night of action - including Peacock's 100m victory

Unforgettable: ParalympicsGB served up a memorable night of action – including Peacock's 100m victory

Unforgettable: ParalympicsGB served up a memorable night of action - including Peacock's 100m victory

Unforgettable: ParalympicsGB served up a memorable night of action – including Peacock's 100m victory

I admit I found some of the talk before the Paralympics infuriating. There were accusations it was just a distant relation of the elite event, a shadow circus living on the reflected glory of the main Games.
We were told there were no genuine stars beyond Pistorius. Some wondered out loud whether it would be a glorified charity event or an expensive school sports day.

There were sneers people were turning up only because they missed out on the ‘real’ ticket ballot, and that the medals would be devalued because of the lack of competition in certain events.

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But the Paralympics actually showed us an astonishing array of fierce competitors being the best they could be in their class. Every sport always has divisions and groupings, either by sex, age, weight, engine size or equipment. You name it and there is a classification of some sort in play.

The fact that the Paralympics have to take into account myriad differences of physical and mental capability does not diminish the fact that the competitors are still number one at what they do.
Yes, some of the labels are confusing and the system could be simpler but, in time, the T44 amputees’ category might be as familiar a phrase as the Under 21s or light-middleweights.

As for the supposed lack of ‘stars’ on show, Ellie Simmonds, Sarah Storey, Cockroft, Weir and Peacock are right up there in the firmament of stellar sporting names in this country.

I’d certainly recognise them ahead of some of our rowers, cyclists and track and field medal winners from the ‘main Games’ — not because they are special cases to be patronised and indulged, but because they are outstanding athletes finally receiving some overdue profile. If you’ve seen any of the blind long jump or the wheelchair rugby, you won’t have any doubts about the courage and competitiveness on view.

Flying the flag: The Paralympians have provided as much entertainment as their Olympic counterparts

Flying the flag: The Paralympians have provided as much entertainment as their Olympic counterparts

Flying the flag: The Paralympians have provided as much entertainment as their Olympic counterparts

If you’ve seen the unique skills of the quad wheelchair tennis players serving with their feet, or the swimmers that race with no arms, there can be no doubting the prowess or the athleticism required.
I’ve tried blind football with the GB Team and banged the drum for them ever since. These boys are part Lionel Messi, part human sonar navigation system.

Plenty more to talk about…

Tune into my Press Pass show on talkSPORT on Sunday at 6pm where we will dissect the coverage of England’s World Cup qualifier and the Paralympics.

I’ll also be at the Team GB parade as a guest of Hawksbee and Jacobs live from Trafalgar Square on Monday afternoon.

I've also trained with the British
wheelchair basketball team in Spain. Beforehand, I asked the players not
to be condescending and 'take it easy' on me. I reminded them of how
infuriating they find it when strangers flash a sympathetic look their
way because they sit in a wheelchair and pointed out I didn't want the
same in reverse.

They duly responded. Throughout a metal-and-bone-crunching afternoon they beat seven types of excrement out of me, forever earning my respect in the process.

So be in no doubt this is a level of sport deserving of a stage. It is just as full of the blood of competition, burning ambition, dedication and dexterity as the main 2012 Games and it is pathetic to suggest otherwise.

There were even concerns voiced that this Paralympics was somehow a waste of money. Britain’s 328 Paralympians were given nearly 50m over four years from Lottery cash and Government funding. It sounds a lot, but to put it into a different context, that’s about the same as Wayne Rooney will earn in four years. For that, London has put on an event that could change attitudes and behaviour forever.

Rough and tumble: There's no love lost on the basketball court

Rough and tumble: There's no love lost on the basketball court

Tens of thousands, maybe hundreds of
thousands of youngsters will grow up with an indelible memory of the
night they witnessed sportsmen and women either in wheelchairs, or
blind, or with one arm, or no legs doing truly extraordinary things in
the pursuit of Olympic glory.

Hopefully, they will grow up learning to look beyond the wheelchair or the white stick. Hopefully, they will see the person not the disability. Hopefully, they will remember when they started to question the accuracy of the word ‘disabled’.

That would be a fine way to mark London's 2012 Paralympics and ensure Britain's greatest-ever sporting summer lives on forever.

Gerrard just cannot win…

It is the ultimate loaded question for England managers and captains. At some point, each and every one of them is led towards the trap.

There’s nothing complicated about the query. On a quiet news day someone collects the microphone at a press conference and asks: ‘Can England win the World Cup’

As loaded questions go, it’s right up there alongside: ‘Have you stopped beating your wife’
Every answer, be it ‘yes’ or ‘no’ is a headline. Any doubt or hesitation causes controversy.

No win situation: Gerrard was asked if England can win the World Cup in Brazil

No win situation: Gerrard was asked if England can win the World Cup in Brazil

Since Steven Gerrard is the player with the armband these days the football grenade was duly tossed in his direction when Roy Hodgson’s side were preparing for last night’s qualifier in Moldova.

His dilemma was this. If Gerrard said England had ‘no chance’ of winning the World Cup, he would be pilloried for being defeatist and failing to motivate the squad.

If he said ‘England can — or even will — win the World Cup’, he would be accused of parading the arrogance that has long been the nation’s downfall.

So Gerrard opted for the more measured approach. He trod a fine line between realism and hope and said: ‘We have to have faith — miracles do happen.’

And the reaction He was pilloried for being both defeatist and arrogant.

Greed and loathing

Cristiano Ronaldo is 'unhappy' with his life at Real Madrid. It seems adulation, 250,000 a week, a team built around him and a sumptuous lifestyle are apparently not enough.

Ashley Cole is unhappy too. He is in contract negotiations with Chelsea and the question appears to be whether he will be paid 5million for one year or 10m for two.

Lewis Hamilton is holding out for more cash at McLaren as his 75m five-year contract comes to an end this year.

On and on it goes. Do these people have any idea how preposterous they sound in the current economic climate Does anyone believe they have an inkling of how they are perceived by the public

Hand to mouth: Ronaldo is trying to get by on 250,000-a-week

Hand to mouth: Ronaldo is trying to get by on 250,000-a-week

So the story goes

The story doing the rounds is Manchester United’s purported 38m bid for Brazilian superstar Neymar is the esult of a misunderstanding.

Apparently, someone got hold of the wrong end of the stick when Sir Alex Ferguson declared there would be ‘nay more signing for United’.

LONDON 2012 PARALYMPICS: Josie Pearson wins discus gold

Third time's a charm! Pearson breaks world record THREE times on way to discus gold

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UPDATED:

12:51 GMT, 7 September 2012

Josie Pearson, who broke her neck in car accident aged 17, set three new world records to take Great Britain's gold medal haul at the Olympic Stadium into double figures by winning the discus title on Friday morning.

The 26-year-old had to give up wheelchair racing after being told the risk of further injury was too great and only took up throwing 18 months ago.

But the Bristol-born athlete launched
the disc out to 6.38, 6.54 and then 6.58 metres with her first three
throws of the competition, extending the F51 record on each occasion.

Golden girl: Pearson broke three world record on Friday

Golden girl: Pearson broke three world record on Friday

Golden girl: Pearson broke three world records on Friday at the Olympic Stadium

With the competition also including F52 and 53 athletes, the distances were converted into points, with Pearson's 1122 putting her 242 clear of the rest of the field.

Such was her dominance any of her six throws would have been good enough to win the gold.

After Jonnie Peacock, David Weir and
Hannah Cockroft ensured Thursday night lived up to its billing as
'Thriller Thursday', Pearson's success kept the British gold medal
bandwagon moving apace.

Pearson,
who became the first woman to represent ParalympicsGB at wheelchair
rugby four years ago, has thrown 6.66m this summer, but the distance was
not ratified and so ineligible for the record books.

Ireland's Catherine O'Neill won silver with a throw of 5.66m for 880 points.

Flying the flag: Pearson celebrates her win in the sunshine on Friday

Flying the flag: Pearson celebrates her win in the sunshine on Friday

Pearson, who was told to give up wheelchair racing earlier this year because of a cyst which had developed on her spine, said: 'I can't quite put into words how I'm feeling at the moment. I am absolutely ecstatic.

'In training I was consistently throwing over the world record so I knew it was a definite possibility that I could do it. To get that first throw and break the world record was such a relief. I was able to relax and then my next two throws were even better. I think I thrive on pressure.'

Pearson was a promising show jumper at the time of the car crash in 2003, in which her boyfriend died as well as leaving her paralysed.

She added: 'I have always been very determined and I knew I wanted to be Paralympic champion. When you hear that the Games are going to be in your home country that's such an incentive to be the best at what you do.

'I was inspired by watching Athens a year after my accident. At that point we didn't know London was hosting the Games, but that inspired me to get back into sport and to be the best that I can be.

Living the dream: Pearson has achieved her goal of becoming Paralympic champion

Living the dream: Pearson has achieved her goal of becoming Paralympic champion

Living the dream: Pearson has achieved her goal of becoming Paralympic champions

'I can't wait to see than golden postbox (in her hometown of Hay-on-Wye) and my stamp.'

Richard Whitehead produced another late burst to book his place in the final of the T42 100m.

The double above-the-knee amputee, as he did to take the 200m crown, came roaring through from way down the field in the second half of the race to beat American Shaquille Vance to third place.

The Nottingham athlete, who is also incredibly the marathon world record holder, finished in a personal best of 12.97 seconds.

The 100m crown, though, is likely to be beyond him on Friday as the distance does not give him enough time to make up for his slow starts.

Another gold medal winner, Mickey Bushell, made it into the final of his second event, the T53 200m, as a fastest loser.

Scott Moorhouse finished seventh in the F42 javelin and Kyron Duke eighth in the F40 javelin.

London 2012 Paralympics: Hannah Cockroft wins T34 200m gold

Hurricane Hannah blows opposition away to grab second Paralympic gold in T34 200m

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UPDATED:

19:18 GMT, 6 September 2012

'Hurricane' Hannah Cockroft destroyed her competition and the Paralympic record to win her second gold medal at the Olympic Stadium.

The 20-year-old claimed she felt like she was 'flying' after a dominant run in qualifying this morning and lived up to her nickname in emphatic fashion by storming to T34 200 metres glory.

The Halifax racer, the world record holder and already the 100m champion, finished in 31.90 seconds, more than two seconds clear of the field.

Ecstasy: Hannah Cockroft celebrates her magnificent victory

Ecstasy: Hannah Cockroft celebrates her magnificent victory

So dominant is she at the event that, racing from lane six, she was already passed the two competitors outside her after barely 20m and was streets clear by the time she crossed the line.

More to follow.

Streaks ahead: Cockroft leads the way

Streaks ahead: Cockroft leads the way

Full pelt: Cockroft gave it all as she took her second medal

Full pelt: Cockroft gave it all as she took her second medal

London 2012 Paralympics: Aled Davies wins discus gold

Davies grabs discus gold as GB athletes eclipse Beijing record after just THREE days

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UPDATED:

12:54 GMT, 2 September 2012

Aled Davies took Great Britain's athletics team past their gold medal haul from the Beijing Paralympics on just the third morning of competition at London 2012 with a dominant discus victory.

The 21-year-old, already a bronze medallist in the shot put, added a third British gold with a European record of 46.14 metres to take the F42 crown.

That effort came with his final throw, by which time he was already guaranteed gold. The Welsh athlete received a huge ovation as he walked into the circle before launching the disc to deafening cheers.

Roar of delight: Great Britain's Aled Davies celebrates winning gold in the men's discus - F42

Roar of delight: Great Britain's Aled Davies celebrates winning gold in the men's discus – F42

Welsh wonder: Davies was in unstoppable form at the Olympic Stadium on Sunday

Welsh wonder: Davies was in unstoppable form at the Olympic Stadium on Sunday

He knew it was big straight away and raced off in celebration before draping himself in the Union Flag for a lap of hour.

The Welshman's victory following triumphs over the first two days by Hannah Cockroft and Richard Whitehead.

Couldn't have done it without you: Davies hugs his coach, Anthony Hughes, after winning gold

Couldn't have done it without you: Davies hugs his coach, Anthony Hughes, after winning gold

Golden moment: Davies celebrates

Throw-business: Davies

Throw-business: Davies had already won bronze in the shot put before his golden arm won the discus

London 2012 Paralympics: Britain"s top medal prospects

Meet the stars who have overcome the odds to get in the race for gold in London

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UPDATED:

22:30 GMT, 27 August 2012

They have bounced back from life-threatening injuries and defied medical odds. But for these athletes, that was not enough. With the Paralympic Games kicking off on Wednesday, there’s only one thing on all of their minds now. That’s winning gold for Great Britain — and once again proving that anything is possible…

HANNAH COCKROFT

Aged 20, T34 100m and 200m

As wheelchair sprinter Hannah Cockroft remarks dryly, she has a lot more to think about than just ‘remembering her shoes’.

The 20-year-old double world champion names all her chairs, which cost around 3,000 for the frames alone, after Paralympic athletes. Oscar (Pistorius) was followed by Ian (Jones), who didn’t fit and had to be sent back, and her latest one is Sally (Brown).

Going for gold: Hannah Cockroft is a double world champion

Going for gold: Hannah Cockroft is a double world champion

She wears Wonder Woman underwear to compete and always paints her nails to match her racing kit. Cockroft is particularly excited about the prospect of the Union Jack talons she’s been promised in the Olympic Village at London 2012.

‘At the World Championships last year I had a puncture the day before my race, then someone moved my chair to get their own out and just dropped it,’ she says. ‘It was wrecked and I couldn’t get the wheels back on.

‘About five o’clock they told me I wouldn’t be able to race the next day in the 200 metres. I was gutted. I just started crying.

‘But they fixed it — well, a botch job. At the end of my 100m, after my second gold, my coach said, “I didn’t want to tell you, but your chair was about to fall apart”.’

It might just be her thick west Yorkshire burr, but Cockroft is wonderfully matter of fact. She isn’t the slightest bit arrogant or boastful, but the straightforward manner in which she recounts her achievements seem to make them all the more remarkable.

She became the first person to break a world record in the Olympic Stadium, clocking 18.56 secs in the T34 100m in May, a time she has since reduced to 17.60.

And 2011 wasn’t ‘a bad year’, she says. ‘I became double world champion and broke 15 world records.’

Speedy: Cockroft was the first person to break a world record at the Olympic stadium

Speedy: Cockroft was the first person to break a world record at the Olympic stadium

As for 2010, that wasn’t too shabby,
either. Cockroft broke seven world records in eight days just after finishing her four A-levels.

On
the Friday morning she did her final English Language exam. She
trained, packed for a 6am flight to Switzerland the next day and put on a
red cocktail dress to go to her sixth form prom, where she was voted
prom queen by her peers.

That weekend she broke three world records. The week after, in Stoke Mandeville, she broke four more. So what happened on the eighth day ‘I was exhausted,’ she says, grinning.

Last year Cockroft was invited to the BBC’s Sports Personality of the Year awards but her coach, Peter Eriksson, decided she had to attend in her wheelchair.

Cockroft, who has cerebral palsy, cannot wear high heels or walk long distances because she walks on the sides of her feet and she ‘would break an ankle’, but she didn’t want to go in her chair — primarily because she had bought a long dress especially for the occasion.

‘But I know I need to be recognisable as a Paralympic athlete,’ she said. ‘Nobody will know who I am otherwise. And I know my coach doesn’t want people to point and say, “Why is she a wheelchair racer when she can walk”.’

But how does that feel Cockroft shrugs her shoulders.

‘If I can inspire people to take up Paralympic sport then it’s all worth it,’ she says. ‘When I was born they said, “Hannah will never walk. She will never talk. She won’t live until her teens”.

Champion: Hannah Cockroft

Champion: Hannah Cockroft

‘I had two cardiac arrests directly after birth. I damaged two parts of my body so I’ve got deformed legs and weak hips. It’s been like that since birth, so it’s never bothered me. I’ve always found a way to do what I want to do.

‘Running was something I could never do but in wheelchair racing you’re still going fast — you just happen to be in a chair.’

She bounds up from the sofa in her parents’ living room in Halifax and walks over to the dresser by a window overlooking the moors.

‘I’ll show you my World Championship medals if you like’ she continues excitably, gently placing two heavy, palm-sized burnished gold discs on the armrest between us. ‘They’re the only ones that don’t go in the medal drawer.

‘A lot of people lock them away but I like people to try them on. They’re a bit bruised. They’ve been dropped a fair few times.’

Just like poor old Oscar.

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Brit special: Abdi Jama won bronze in Beijing but wants gold in London

I also played in Australia in 2009, for the Perth Wildcats, and now I play for Wolverhampton Rhinos.

Team GB has been doing really well, coming back from the European Championships as champions, but I won’t be satisfied until I’ve got that gold medal in London.

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Sprint finish: Libby Clegg in action in the womens 200m ambulant

I’m not blind, I’m partially sighted. I really struggle reading and I’m always bumping into people or tripping over things. I should use a cane but I feel like a bit of a fraud.

I’ve got unfocused vision. It’s like when you turn on a TV screen and all the pixels come out. It’s quite colourful, but not clear.

It’s like seeing lots of highlighted points on a page. I can’t really see where I’m going at all when I run and I wear glasses to block out the light.

My guide used to be Lincoln Asquith but now his stepson, Mikail Huggins, has taken over.

You have to be completely in synch and get the start absolutely right. We’re kind of a team — wherever I go, he goes.

Rough and tumble: Sam Ingram

Rough and tumble: Sam Ingram

— it’s the cartilage in my right knee. There were a couple of guys I couldn’t beat but I managed it at the European Championships. That’s vital because my closest competitors now know I can beat them.

I think I can do it again — and achieve gold — at London 2012.

but we’ll have to perform to our very best. My partner, Jordanne Whiley, and I reached the final of Wimbledon this year and we’ve had some big wins recently. With the home crowd behind us at Eton Manor, we’ll be a real threat in the doubles event.

It’s been a frustrating few years since Beijing. I was out for a long time after suffering tennis elbow in my right arm, my racket arm. It was very frustrating because it was one of the first major injuries I’ve had since I started competing in 2003. I’m also very reliant on my arms because I’m paraplegic, yet it hurt to even boil the kettle.

I was 21 when I had my accident. I had just finished university and walked straight into a sales job. I paid for my motorcycle licence with my first pay cheque and passed first time.

Serving up success: Lucy Shuker (left) in action at Wimbledon

Serving up success: Lucy Shuker (left) in action at Wimbledon

But 12 days and maybe 800 to 900 miles later I went round a corner, there was a telephone pole and postbox next to each other and the only memory I have is waking up and not being able to feel my legs.

I didn’t realise what I had actually done to myself until I saw the MRI scan, which showed my spinal cord had been severed. I hit rock bottom. It was devastating. I really struggled for a few years, in terms of finding myself again.

Then I remember my Nana saying to me one Christmas: ‘You’ve got your sparkle back.’

I started playing tennis when I first came out of hospital. Soon I was playing three times a week and then I joined a coaching group in Taunton. I didn’t get any compensation from my accident because it was my own fault, so I’m grateful to the National Lottery and the Tennis Foundation for support.

I played badminton from the age of eight. I played for my county, Hampshire, but I didn’t realise my potential. I was young and I had other passions — riding and horses in particular. I regretted that after I had my accident but I’ve been given another chance — and I plan to enjoy it and make the most of it this time.

/08/27/article-2194381-14920E66000005DC-768_634x443.jpg” width=”634″ height=”443″ alt=”Sharp shooter: Matt Skelhon won gold in Beijing four years ago” class=”blkBorder” />

Sharp shooter: Matt Skelhon won gold in Beijing four years ago

I had a car accident in 2005. I had just turned 20, I was driving home from work as a greens keeper and I’m not quite sure what happened. I broke my back.

I took up archery in early 2006 and then shooting later that year. Before then it has only been shooting tin cans in the garden; nothing really serious. But I just seemed to take to it.

My Mohawk hairstyle will be back again soon too. That was a mental sort of haircut. I haven’t decided what to do at London 2012 but there will be something going on, don’t you worry.

Thanks to National Lottery players, more than 1,200 athletes are benefitting from world-class coaching and support. The National Lottery is also contributing up to 2.2billion to the venues and infrastructure for London 2012 and its legacy.

www.national-lottery.co.uk/bepartofit

National Lottery

London 2012 Olympics: David Weir heads Disability Grand Prix

Weir set to lead Paralympic athletes in first competition at Olympic Stadium

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UPDATED:

18:38 GMT, 7 May 2012

Six-time Olympic medallist David Weir heads the list of Paralympic athletes using the Olympic stadium for the first time on Tuesday at the Disability Grand Prix.

Tim Hollingsworth, the CEO of the British Paralympic Association, said: 'The test event is a great opportunity for British disabled track and field athletes to get inside the Olympic stadium. For many of them it will be their first chance to see the venue they will all want to be inside in just over 100 days time at the Paralympic Games.

'It really is fantastic for these athletes to have this experience ahead of the Games and to perform in front of a home crowd.'

Star performer: David Weir (right) with Shelly Woods and Prince Harry

Star performer: David Weir (right) with Shelly Woods and Prince Harry

Double world champion and multiple world record holder Hannah Cockroft will open her 2012 outdoor season at the and she can't wait to get back inside the Olympic Park.

'My last visit was nearly two years ago when the stadium was just a shell,' says the Halifax wheelchair racer. 'There were no seats and there wasn't even a track back then, but it was still a pretty amazing place to be!

'I just can't wait to get into the stadium and see how much it has changed. I've seen photos of it and some coverage on TV, but nothing is going to give the same effect as actually getting out on the actual track where I'll either make or break my career in four months time.'

Cockroft has already got her year off to a flying start and reduced her own T34 400m global best with a time of 59.99 at the Sydney Track Classic in Australia in February. She has gone quicker (58.59), but not in an IPC ratified event. She now hopes that her early season hard work will pay off.

'I've spent a lot of this year on warm weather training camps to make sure I'm in the best shape possible for the upcoming season and everything is looking pretty positive,' she says.

Home sweet home: Athletes are getting their first taste of the Olympic Stadium

Home sweet home: Athletes are getting their first taste of the Olympic Stadium

'I spent January and February out in Australia at the Summer Down Under race series which was a great experience for me, as I got to spend some quality training time with my coach Peter Eriksson and our new wheelchair coach on the team, Kelly Smith.

'I then spent most of March at our Aviva warm weather camp with my idol Chantal Petitclerc as a coach, mentor and training partner. With 2012 hopefully being my first Paralympic Games, all of their combined experience is just what I need to get prepared for the biggest event of my life.

'This test event really is a once in a lifetime opportunity to race on the track where I could potentially win a Paralympic gold medal, so I'm grabbing the opportunity with both hands.

'I know the stadium won't be full, but I'm sure we'll get the same sensation; whether you're performing in front of one person or one million people, the same pressure is there to perform. People have expectations now and I'm working hard to make sure I deliver.'

More than 200 athletes have been invited to compete in the test event from almost fifty nations around the world. Almost half of those are British, and many will be targeting Paralympic Games qualifying standards as the crucial summer season gets underway.