RAF Mildenhall stages its very own paralympics

With memories of arguably the most successful Paralympics ever in London still fresh in peoples' minds, a Suffolk USAF base opened its doors to welcome athletes for a special annual sports day.

The Joan Mann Special Sports Day was started 31 years ago at RAF Mildenhall by Joan Mann, a Ministry of Defence employee at the base, to bring the community and the USAF bases at Mildenhall and RAF Lakenheath together to compete in a series of Olympic-style sports events for the disabled.

And on Saturday, 240 people from disabled organisations across East Anglia participated in a series of fun contests to test their sporting skills, including an obstacle course, American Football throwing, a basketball shoot-out, ring toss and 100 yard sprint.

In keeping with the Olympic theme, an opening ceremony was held where all the athletes paraded around the arena with torch bearer Neil Draper in front prior to a welcoming speech by Col Christopher Kulas, commander of the 100th Air Refueling Wing based at Mildenhall.

He said: 'I know that the Olympics were an inspiration for all of us, just like the competition today will be an inspiration for all of us.'

The athletes were also competing for medals for the top three in each event, which were presented by the base leadership at the end of the day.

Two paralympians who competed at the London Games- shotputter Jonathan Adams and wheelchair basketball player Sarah Grady- were also on hand to lend their support to the athletes at the special sports day.

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Groups represented at the event included Mencap (Mid Norfolk), Ely Aquarius Club, Southend Carers Forum and Haverhill charity LAMPH.

Dave Long, who runs LAMPH, which cares for the mentally and physically disabled, said 21 people were attending from LAMPH, ranging in age from 22 to 67 and that the charity had participated in the event for five years.

He said: 'They started asking when they were coming in February. This event is the highlight of the year for them and they get really excited about it.'

Janni Jevlin, 25, from LAMPH, was set to compete in the obstacle course and 100 yard run.

She said: 'It feels great to take part and I love being here.'

Emma Wymer, 38, also from LAMPH, was set to compete in the 50 yard and 100 yard runs and said she had taken part in the event for the last five years. She added: 'I really enjoy being here.'

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