Cambodia introduced to Wheelchair Rugby by France and India
Wheelchair rugby and basketball athletes from around the world met in Cambodia, for the inaugural International Wheelchair Sports Exchange, organized by the NGO Soulcial Trust.
“Quad Rugby” players from France and India traveled to Cambodia to work with basketball players from Battambang and the newly-formed team in Siem Reap for the first International Wheelchair Sports Exchange.
The event was sponsored in part by Swiss research agency m1nd-set and featured rigorous training sessions, basketball and rugby matches, workshops on identifying new rugby players and building awareness of disability by introducing children in Cambodia to wheelchair sports. It is the first of a planned three-year exchange—in 2018 athletes from the different teams will travel to France and a year later they will head to India.
Ten athletes from the Stade Toulousain Handisport Club in Toulouse; the Montpellier Handi Rugby Club in Montpellier; the Wheelchair Rugby Federation of India in New Delhi; and the Cambodian Wheelchair Basketball Federation in Battambang participated in the exchange.
French participant Tristan Barfety said: “Thanks to this project, I have been able to meet different people from different countries, while playing different sports, which is very enriching. It has been really amazing for me and has filled my head with incredible memories that make me want to participate in the project next year.”
Members of the newly formed wheelchair basketball club in Siem Reap also joined the activities. In September 2017, Soulcial Trust started the wheelchair basketball training at ICF Campus Arena for 15-20 people with disabilities in Siem Reap, mostly affected by landmines and polio. Soulcial Trust programmes director Genni Low said: “Having the opportunity to train with seasoned athletes was really important for motivating the Siem Reap players.
The training sessions, open to the public, were attended by scores of visitors and supporters. “Although the biggest focus on the exchange was the training, at its core the exchange has always been about increasing awareness about disability,” Low explained. “We want to be able to show the public that people with disabilities are, first and foremost, people who love to play sports and have fun as much as anyone.”
The exchange concluded with an award ceremony. The two players who displayed the most supportive attitude and contributed the most to the development of their fellow team players were honoured as the first recipients of The Ian McInnes Award.
Soulcial Trust director Michael Barrett said: “The honour was created and so named in memory of a dear friend of mine, who passed away in hospital in his hometown of Edinburgh on Monday November 27 as the exchange was underway. We had known each other when we met on our Duke of Edinburgh Gold expedition almost 30 years ago, in 1989.
“He suffered from a rare genetic disease and throughout his life he defied all the odds and doctors’ predictions that he would not survive beyond the age of 25. It was cancer, not his long-term disease, which finally overcame Ian, who passed away at the age of 48. He was an inspiration to me and many others, as despite his physical disability and being wheelchair bound, he lived life to the full, doing everything from mountaineering with me to bungee jumping and parachuting.”
The Ian McInnes Award will be given annually during the Wheelchair Sports Exchange.