A survivor of the 7/7 bombings says competing in the London 2012 Paralympics and taking part in the opening ceremony will be “an absolute dream come true”.
Martine Wiltshire, who had both legs amputated after the 2005 terrorist bombings in London, will be competing for the ParalympicsGB team in sitting volleyball.
She said that playing the sport at elite level had helped fill the gap left by having to quit her previous career as an international marketing manager, a way of bringing back “some sort of meaning” to her life.
Wiltshire said that entering the Olympic Stadium on 29 August for the Paralympics opening ceremony would be the moment when she realised: “Oh my God, I’m here.”
And she said that her family, Londoners like herself, would be just as emotional when they saw her in the stadium.
She said: “Obviously they are going to be really proud. I think they are going to be crying. There are definitely going to be tears in the house.
“After such an awful lot of pain in all our lives, to be able to say that your daughter or your wife is a Paralympian…”
Her last memory of being at work before she was caught up in the suicide bombings of 7 July 2005 was of watching the announcement on television that London had been awarded the 2012 Olympics and Paralympics.
She said: “I remember jumping up and down. We went out for a few celebratory drinks in the evening. I went to go back to work in the morning and picked up the paper, and every single page was about the Olympics.
“All I kept thinking was, ‘how do I get tickets to the Olympics?’ and then the bomb went off. I was literally holding my paper, reading about the Olympics.”
She said that repeatedly talking to the media about the day of the bombings had been “cathartic”. “In the beginning I didn’t speak about it for a year, [but since then] I have always felt like I have had a sort of duty to talk about it because it was such a big event in London, in the UK, in the world.”
She said her injury and recovery had helped her bond with other members of the sitting volleyball team, the majority of whom had become disabled as a result of a “traumatic” experience.
Wiltshire said she had always been “sporty” at school and university – where she studied psychology and communication studies – and took up sitting volleyball after a Paralympic talent-spotting event in 2009.
She said: “I was always very competitive. I tried sitting volleyball and absolutely fell in love with it. It is very dramatic… it’s a great team sport.”
Wiltshire said she believed that “fate” had played a part in her journey from 7/7 survivor to Paralympian.
She points to coincidences, such as training with the team in Roehampton while facing the hospital – Queen Mary’s – where she spent six months in rehabilitation from her injuries.
The first match she played in for the team was on 7 July, and the event that announced the sitting volleyball squad selected to take part in London 2012 was at City Hall, on the south bank of the Thames, opposite the building where she used to work.
She said: “It wasn’t by chance, it was something to do with fate. Maybe I was always meant to do this journey.”
As other disabled athletes have done, she also spoke of how she hoped that the London 2012 Paralympics would have “the power to change people’s views” about disability sport, persuading the public that Paralympians are not just “giving it a go” but are “elite athletes”.
She added: “People will hopefully see that having a disability does not mean that life stops. There are huge opportunities out there.
“As well as being sports people, we have a responsibility to show disability sport in its real light. And hopefully inspire young, old, disabled, not-disabled people to go out and achieve whatever dreams they want to achieve.”
The women’s sitting volleyball takes place between 31 August and 7 September, with Britain’s first match on 31 August against European champions Ukraine. They will also face Netherlands and Japan in the group stages.
24 July 2012