With pre season training for the 2014/2015 SWALEC Championship season well and truly in full swing, the Pontypool RFC squad took time out of their usual rugby preparations to welcome Sebastopol born paralympian legend, John Harris, to Pontypool Park for an inspirational coaching session.
Harris was paralysed at the age of 18 after falling 18 metres from a fairground ride. A keen sportsman before the accident, he was encouraged to start training again. A natural in the gym, he inevitably decided to get involved in Paralympic sport.
Harris was selected to compete for Great Britain at his first Games in 1980. He went on to compete in a total of 5 Paralympic Games, with the pinnacle of his sporting career coming in 1984 when he won the gold medal in the discus, throwing a world record distance in the process. He went on to win the full set of medals four years later, claiming silver in the discus and bronze in the pentathlon at the Seoul Games in 1988.
Away from the Paralympics, John completed the London Marathon in 1987 as a warm up for his 'Push Around Wales', an event that raised funds to build the Wales Sports Centre for Disabled People and saw John cover 600 miles in 37 days. Ten years later, John repeated the Push Around Wales and raised another £30,000 for sporting opportunities for disabled people.
Pontypool RFC Director of Rugby, Alun Carter, said: “John has been a lifelong supporter of Pontypool RFC, and with such a humble personality, it is easy to overlook his success as a gold medalist in the Paralympic Games and being at the forefront of wheelchair sport in the 80's.
“He has achieved so much himself because of his dedication to training and the fact that he is a seriously tough man.
“We are delighted to have John as a friend of the club and he is simply an inspirational person.”