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Welling Paralympic medallist relives New York competition

PUBLISHED: 15:52 29 May 2012

Robert Churchill

Robert Churchill

Archant

Welling's Paralympic silver medallist Robert Churchill relived his memories of competing in New York as the preparations for London 2012 kicked into gear.

The 69-year-old was a member of the British table tennis team in 1984, in the last Games before the Olympics and Paralympics took place in the same city.

Mr Churchill suffers from severe curvature of the spine and has three limb replacements - two hips and one knee.

He said: “At the time it was very important to be a part of it. It made the TV and was opened by Ronald Reagan, who was a big film personality as well as American president.

“British Airways flew us over and treated us marvellously, and once we’d finished our events we stayed out there to support our team mates.”

Mr Churchill, who celebrates his 70th birthday next month, won his silver in the men’s team event.

The retired former engineer became involved in the British Table Tennis Association for the disabled when it was formed in the early 1990s and was its treasurer for 10 years.

The New York Games acted as a forerunner to the Paralympics as they appear today, but the silver medallist is unhappy about how his brand of disability was branded ‘les autres’, translating as the others.

He said: “Because we weren’t paraplegics, amputees, or mentally disabled I don’t think we got as much coverage as we deserved.”

Mr Churchill is now the full-time carer for his mother, who received a card from the Queen when she turned 100 in March.

This means he will have to watch this summer’s Games from the comfort of his own living room.

He said: “I’m not going to be able to get to the Games because of the logistics involved. It’s a real shame!

“But table tennis is close to my heart and competing in the Paralympics is something I’ll never forget.”

The Marne Road resident still plays an active role in the local community by volunteering at the Greenwich and Bexley Community Hospice shop on Bellegrove Road.

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