Queensland Gladiators National Championship has now finished

26 Mar 2012 - 28 Feb 2014

Tristram's Story

As any of my friends would tell you, I'm addicted to sports. From the spectacle that is the All Blacks performing the haka - a sight I admire even as an ardent Wallabies supporter - to the fervour that erupts each time the Football World Cup comes around, I love it all. Well, except for golf, but that's beside the point.

It started at a young age with me. I'm told by my dad that I watched the '91 Rugby World Cup with him when I was one year old. I may have been more interested in sleeping and eating at the time, but I figure that's where it all began. At a very young age, I had decided that I wanted to play sport for a career - be it rugby union, league, AFL, or football.

But my dreams were dashed by a form of muscular dystrophy; a condition called Spinal Muscular Atrophy Type 2. Essentially, my muscles were slowly becoming weaker, so weak that I was soon confined to an electric wheelchair.

In fact, because of my condition, I was invited to attend a camp for people with muscular dystrophy. I went on Harley Davidson rides, played numerous games and activities, and met people facing similar challenges as myself. Our disabilities were pushed to the background. We were just kids having fun.

However, the greatest thing was an electric wheelchair sports demo. I had never heard of electric wheelchair sports before, but here they were - sports for people in electric wheelchairs. I immediately wanted to be involved.

The sports included hockey, soccer, and rugby league. Each had been modified slightly from the standard rules of each sport, in order to ensure everyone could play them. Soccer, for instance, was played with a monster inflatable balloon, while touch rugby league didn't even have a ball!

The fact was that these sports weren't dependent on strength or physical prowess, but instead on strategy and the ability to drive one's chair. I was too young to realise it - all I knew was that it was incredibly fun and that it was an opportunity to play sport like all my friends - but my parents saw the greater benefits the sports had to offer and subsequently signed me up. Seeing how much fun it was, I didn't mind at all.

That was more than 10 years ago, and as you might have guessed, electric wheelchair sports have now become a massive part of my life. I've played for the Queensland Gladiators at the annual National Electric Wheelchair Sports competition nine times and hope to be playing for them for a few years yet.

But, while the sports themselves are fun, it's for a completely different reason that I love them so much. By playing it, I've met so many fantastic people, who have mentored me and helped me deal with my disability. The general message has been "don't sit back, do something". This is a message I've tried to take on board.

These days, I help out with the sport demos and frequently find myself going to schools to encourage kids in electric wheelchairs to give the sports a go. If they don't like the sports, then that's okay. But I think it's important to show that there are options out there.

For me personally, playing sport was the goal. I've now achieved this and the sports addict in me loves it.

Tristram Peters is studying journalism at the University of Queensland and competes in electric wheelchair sports. He won the 2010 Disability Action Week Outstanding Young Achiever Award.

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