knew at the time that Britain was truly unique in offering the planning, imagination and care in bringing about this great spectacle of the Paralympics for The World to see.
I felt only one sense disappointment during the whole fortnight. The number of events accessible to the disabled athletes was understandably confined to certain sports, but I could not understand why the game of ‘Snooker’ had not been included. I know a number of very good disabled snooker players who were equally as puzzled. I believe the last time the sport was played at an Olympic level was in 1988 in Seoul when it really buzzed along and then after that there does not seem to be any evidence that ‘Snooker’ was ever included again in the table of events. I ask this question because I know that although ‘Snooker’ demands high levels of skill, dexterity and movement, it is a game accessible to disabled people, and without the need or use of specialised equipment.
My Father, Ray Harrison, was highly successful at playing this sport and also highly successful in promoting ‘Snooker’ to many disabled people. He formed a team at the old Lodge Moor hospital in Sheffield and spent many hours training others while enjoying the game and the atmosphere himself. Dad was in a wheelchair, a victim of Polio, but he had learned how to lift and move his body into certain positions which gave him full control of the snooker table. One report published in the Sheffield Star in 1984 stated, ‘Ray moves fluidly around a table both backwards and forwards at speed, and it was hard to believe he was handicapped as he had developed his skills to a fine degree which had enabled him to overcome the physical restrictions of his disability.’ At the time Ray had stated to the reporter that there were not many shots that a disabled person could not make. In his opinion you just had to become proficient in positioning the white ball to make it easier for yourself and then you could enjoy the game. Mick Langley (Paralympic Snooker Champion 1988) said, "Ray Harrison was a legend, he was one in a million. He taught me a lot about the game of snooker and I believe that I wouldn't have achieved half of what I have achieved if I had never met him. What a great man!"
Using this method enabled Ray to play the sport to a very high level, winning three important medals, silver, bronze and finally the much coveted ‘Paraplegic World Snooker Champion Gold Medal’ in 1985. He was also described as the perfect ambassador for disabled sport and travelled to Denmark, Iceland and Malta to compete and appear on their T.V. channels. In 1984 he was given the opportunity to travel to America and was greatly disappointed when this competition was cancelled due to a lack of sponsorship. But that was then when the ordinary members of the public did not fully understand how important big sponsors were and when venues, sporting fixtures, special facilities and travel arrangements were more difficult to put into operation. And this is now 2012 where we value and encourage the determination and spirit that disabled people have in abundance and how important it is when sponsors can be found to help the athletes
bring about success not only for themselves, but also for the reputation of the country.
Dad was such an inspiration. He taught me the sport and never lost his enthusiasm, ambitions and hopes no matter what setbacks he
experienced. He would have loved this period and revelled in the successes of the athletes and I know he would have found a way to enter into the thick of it. He would also have encouraged me in the type of work I am concerned with. I know from my own experiences that the game of Snooker is not only accessible to people with physical handicaps it is also a terrific sport for helping people with weak, concentrative powers. I train people who find focussing on strategy, learning where to position the balls and which part of a ball to strike with the cue incredibly difficult, but I have found that with patience, respect and specialised tuition they can enjoy the sport follow the rules and learn how to improve their standards.
I am very keen to see the sport of Snooker reinvigorated and reintroduced into the next Paralympics which will be held in Brazil in 2016.
With this in mind I’m asking for general support in backing my idea and request. I’m planning on writing to the Olympic Committee and contacting Seb Coe and Mr Deighton to ask for their advice and if anybody else knows who else I could contact to try and put this request into operation I would be grateful to hear from them. I’d also be pleased if some of the top players in the country would approach members of the Olympic committee to make a similar plea for the reinstatement of the sport as they would obviously have more clout than I have. The more people I can find who will support me in this endeavour the greater chance it will have of success. We all know that achievements are important in the lives of able bodied people, but even more strongly celebrated when we achieve after a struggle. I therefore would like to see this sport included in the table of events in the next games as it is so accessible to both able and disabled people at every level.
To support this aim Stephen Harrison Academy (SHA) is staging The UK Wheelchair Snooker Championship, at The Green Room Snooker Club in Sheffield on 27th April 2013. The event is a tribute to Ray Harrison 1985 Paraplegic World Snooker Champion; the event will be played during the World Snooker Championship in 2013.
The Stephen Harrison Academy is a groundbreaking social enterprise based in Sheffield which since 2007 has developed and then proved the social impact of innovative methods that initially uses snooker as a fun way to attract and make entertaining personal development programmes, nutrition, mentoring and employment opportunities for a wide variety of disadvantaged groups. The focus of our work is with young offenders, people with physical and learning disabilities or mental health problems, young people and adults not in education, employment or training however because of our methodology we attract people from all parts of the communities.
To get involved, why not become one of SHA‘s main sponsors and sponsor this high profile event. SHA has forged strong links with the media, your organisation will be sure to receive maximum publicity. Be the difference and help raise funds by sponsoring this exciting show case event. All monies raised through sponsorship will be invested back into the Sheffield community in support of disadvantaged groups. As a prime sponsor your company will receive the following benefits: Sponsors logo to feature prominently on all academy
publicity, Sponsors logo to feature prominently throughout the venue, Sponsors logo to feature prominently on SHA’s website with links.
For more information contact:
Stephen Harrison Academy,
The Innovation Centre,
Sheffield S1 4DP
t: 0114 224 2346
m: 0786 4046826