13.Apr.2005

Disabled Refugee Athlete Determined To Finish 25th London Marathon

Next Sunday, as some 30,000 people cross the start line of the 25th London Marathon, there will no doubt be some remarkable reasons for putting themselves through the gruelling 26 mile course.

One of the most remarkable of those stories is that of Shaho Qadir, a 30 year old Kurdish refugee now living in north London. But Shaho will not be running the marathon, he plans to tackle the course in a battered wheelchair.

Shaho is an amputee who lost both his legs when Saddam Hussein bombed his village in northern Iraq in 1988. Caught in the rocket fire, Shaho, then only 13 years old, lost both his legs in a story similar to that of Ali Abbas, the child who lost both his arms in a bombing raid on his village during the recent US-led war against Hussein.

At 28, Shaho had had enough of the impossible politics that meant that, as a Kurd, he could not freely express himself. He escaped to England where he was granted refugee status. In the UK, he began gymnastics training to help develop his upper body strength and decided to enter the London marathon as a wheelchair racer (he usually uses prosthetic legs to walk).

“It’s important for disabled people to keep fit,” says Shaho. “I decided to do the marathon as a positive example – to show that I am getting out and doing constructive things.”

Last year, Shaho teamed up with Highgate fitness instructor Charlie Brown and together they got in touch with wheelchair racing coach Steve Harris, who showed them wheelchair racing techniques.

Even though he has only been training for a few months, Shaho won the Silverstone half marathon last month and came third at the Reading half marathon.

“Shaho is the most improved athlete I have ever seen,” says Brown. “In three months he has come a long way and has even started beating top racers. He definitely has the potential to become one of the top wheelchair racers in the country.”

In addition to his training, Shaho helps Harris coach young disabled teenagers who want to wheelchair race. Shaho also makes time to mentor Aziz, a blind refugee living in Croydon and is mentored himself through Time Together, a refugee mentoring scheme run by national volunteering charity TimeBank.

“He wanted to inspire people,” says Charlie. “He has encouraged lots of kids in the local community to get involved.”

“If anyone helps me, I have to help them back. I feel very happy when I can do this,” says Shaho. “I was tired of the constant persecution in Iraq, and my home being bombed. I was tired of fighting the system. I came here with no English but I have learnt loads in the past two years. Now people come and talk to me when they see me training in my wheelchair. I want to show them I can do this, and be a good example.”

Shaho is looking for additional sponsorship to help him buy the specialist equipment he needs to continue competing throughout the year. A pair of gloves alone costs £100. If you can help please contact Charlie Brown at: Fresh Health Club 0207 681 4793 / Highgate Newtown Community Centre 0207 272 7201.

ENDS

For images of Shao please contact: Sala Lewis 07811 895 597 salalewis@hotmail.com

For more media information contact Louise Clifton, TimeBank Media Relations Officer, 0207 785 6388, l.clifton@timebank.org.uk

Note for editors:
Time Together was launched in 2002 and currently operates in six cities – London, Birmingham, Glasgow, Manchester, Peterborough and Plymouth. Volunteers give five hours a month to mentor a refugee. The scheme aims to help refugees integrate in their new community, create ambassadors for refugees in UK communities and promote more positive images of refugees in the media. For more information log onto www.timebank.org.uk/mentor or call 0845 601 4008

TimeBank is a national campaign inspiring and connecting people to share and give time www.timebank.org.uk