Paralysed Tooting resident overcomes disability to become qualified fitness instructor and Paralympic hopeful

How does someone in a wheelchair skip?

This is one of many adaptations the team at Carney’s Community Centre boxing club in Battersea had to make when they started training paralysed Tooting resident Marcus Perrineau-Daley alongside their non-disabled fighters.

The Paralympic hopeful not only took on the struggle to rebuild his muscles and body movement following a life-threatening road accident but he also decided to join the club where he is expected to match up to the able-bodied members.

He said: “They never ever discriminated against me, they always treated me the same. Even though it was hard sometimes because I am in a wheelchair but they didn’t see it.

“I never complained because I was just like everyone else and that was all I wanted.”

The 27-year-old skips by putting tennis balls inside two socks that he swings to replicate the upper body motion and he rows by putting the rowing machine underneath his chair and pulling on the handles.

His continued success in training has meant Marcus’ strength and endurance have gone sky high and he is now working towards competing in the power-lifting category at the Paralympics.

In December last year Marcus passed the level two fitness instructor qualification with flying colours, despite sitting exactly the same test as his able bodied counterparts, allowing him to train clients and run exercise classes.

Although there are now incredible prospects ahead of Marcus, things haven’t always been so positive.

On October 19 2014 he overtook a pick-up truck on his motorbike at high speed without realising there was a roundabout ahead.

He hit the curb and flew head first into a wooden sleeper breaking his neck and back and severing his spinal cord.

After an eight and a half hour operation and the loss of five and a half pints of blood, Marcus was told that he would never walk again.

He was transferred to The London Spinal Cord Injury Centre in Stanmore where he underwent a grueling rehabilitation programme and learned how to live with his injuries.

Marcus managed to find strength in the face of disaster, he said: “Accept what it was now and see the next step.

“Once you dwell on something you will never have the chance to move forward.”

Shortly after he left the centre Marcus’ cousin introduced him to Aaron Gilbert, who had also been in a car accident that left him in a wheelchair.

Aaron had started training with the team at Carney’s Community Centre and tried to convince Marcus to join him for boxing training.

Marcus said: “I was going back to Stanmore to use their gym because it’s adapted plus I felt a bit embarrassed being in a wheelchair going to a normal gym.”

After some persuasion Marcus decided to go along to the centre to see how Aaron, whose right hand was still not fully functioning, managed to box.

Marcus said: “I went down to Carney’s and it was the best thing I’ve ever done and I mean the best thing I’ve ever done, the best rehabilitation I could ever do.”

He found his balance, strength and speed dramatically improved as well as having a huge boost in his confidence and his anxiety eased.

He plans to tackle the level three and four personal training exams in order to start working with other disabled people and give them the opportunity to progress in fitness.

Marcus’ inspiration and drive have taken him from strength to strength since his accident but he credits his achievements to the support of his family, friends and loyal girlfriend.

He said: “I think that’s what really helped me, having a good support network.”

Image courtesy of Marcus Perrineau-Daley, with thanks

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