A disabled Selsey man is trying to further the cause of his wheelchair sport with an informative book on the subject.
Jonathan Collins, who’s 29, is a wheelchair fencer who has won medals at the point of his sword but feels his sport is unknown and overlooked by the public in general.
“Everybody knows about the Paralympics since the memorable games of 2012 but wheelchair fencing remains a little known sport despite having a silver medallist in 2016 Paralympics. The British Disabled fencers take part in championships all over the world and win highly coveted gold, silver and bronze medals on a regular basis, despite this, Wheelchair Fencing is still one of the lesser known sports in the disabled sport world,” said Jonathan, who lives with his parents who are very supportive of his ambitions.
His book – a self-published work on Amazon – is packed with information, tips and ideas about taking up the Foil, Sabre or Epee if you are in a wheelchair.
He has included pictures of many of his fencing colleagues who reveal what makes them love their sport and share insights about overcoming adversity. The book also contains life stories from Wheelchair fencers from across the world that, are at the top level of the sport, including world champions.
Jonathan was born with Spina Bifida and has been in a wheelchair since birth. His condition was made worse by Hydrocephalus which has caused him some sight loss.
“When I was born the doctors told my parents I wouldn’t survive but – various operations later – I am still here at 29!” he said.
He attended mainstream education and achieved “A LEVELS” for computing at college, His love of history led him to becoming a valuable member of the volunteer team at the award-winning Mary Rose Museum in Portsmouth, but there was always something lacking in his life.
Jonathan said: “And that was sport. I simply couldn’t play football or rugby or anything like that. I tried “taster sessions” of various wheelchair sports but for various reasons nothing appealed to me. Back in 2012 a friend of mine told me about wheelchair fencing and I went along to see what it was all about. I was hooked within half an hour!”
The sport is exhilarating, fun, skilful and allows him to meet people from all around the world who share his love of the sport. His trainer Viv Mills was a former wheelchair fencer for Great Britain and is still very active and well known within the sport. Although Jonathan doesn’t have aspirations in that direction he says it would be amazing to fence for Great Britain one day.
“Wheelchair Fencing is suitable for most disabilities, whether you are like me and have been in a wheelchair from birth or you have become wheelchair-bound because of an accident or injury.
“There has to be incredible willpower to succeed at something on both sides of the fence and fencing has mental and physical challenges that are thrown up on a weekly basis,” he said.
Wheelchair fencers sit in specially-adapted chairs which have a bar grip allowing them to lean over dramatically when making their thrusts and the chairs are secured into frames set apart on a piste and secured so they cannot topple over. (This is where the inspiration for the title of his book Into the Frame came from.)
There are categories of competitors, depending on their upper body mobility and strength, and – just like boxers – you always fence in your own division.
“Fencing gives me everything I need to make my life complete. It is a social and an exciting hobby and I hope my book will lift the veil and allow people a glimpse into my world and inspire them to try the sport for themselves,” he added.
Into The Frame by Jonathan David Collins, is available from Amazon or by contacting him on Facebook at Wheelchair fencer Jonathan Collins.
You can purchase the book via Amazon here: https://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/1718141122