EVERYBODY has a talent – you just need the courage to follow your dreams.
That was the inspirational message from former Paralympian and UK record holder Paul Cartwright.
Paul was attending a special reception at the Hollybank Trust, Mirfield, where he presented his 1984 Paralympic tracksuit top and a signed photograph of himself shortly after winning gold at international championships the following year.
Now the former Hollybank pupil hopes that his treasured possessions will inspire others on to great things.
Paul, 48, who lives in Liversedge, said: “I believe everybody has a niche in life, you just need the courage to follow your dream. If you think you can do something, you should try.
“And that’s the same for everybody, whether you have a disability or you are able bodied.
“Hollybank was a big part of shaping me into the person I am today and I am very grateful for that. It was a very happy time of my life. That philosophy still continues here today and I hope that my achievements will inspire people to reach for their goals.”
Paul, who was born with spina bifida and is paraplegic, attended the school from the age of four to 11 before going on to mainstream education. Last year he became an ambassador for Hollybank School.
He has always been a keen athlete and was the first Briton to win an international gold medal in a wheelchair event.
He represented Great Britain at the 1984 Stoke Mandeville Paralympic Games, breaking multiple British records and at one time or another has held the British wheelchair record for every distance from 100m to the marathon.
In the 1980s Paul was training three or four hours a day as well as holding down a full-time job with Kirklees Leisure Services. He also held UK records for the pentathlon, power lifting and fishing, which he still enjoys today.
He added: “The London Paralympics blew people’s perceptions out of the water. People now truly realise that disabled athletes work as hard as able bodies and deserve recognition.”
Hollybank’s chief executive Pam King said: “We are extremely proud of Paul’s achievements and are delighted that he is part of the Hollybank community once again and a regular visitor. This presentation of these memories is a lovely gift to us and the students past, present and future.
“We are really grateful for his continuing support, his positive energy and his inspiration.”
Hollybank Trust provides education and residential care and support for children and adults with profound disabilities.