Suddenly, disabled sport is headline news. It never used to be that way. Forty years ago, the first chief sub I ever worked for, a grand old man at the Daily Telegraph who used to crack really awful un-PC jokes, told me that sport represented the highest pinnacle of achievement, the greatest feat one could achieve with a “perfect body”. Hence, he said, chess and bridge were not sport, but roller-hockey and free-style wrestling most certainly were.
Since then, times have changed so much. Everything from the Paralympics to Prince Harry’s Invictus Games, from blind football to the special Olympics, from walking netball to one-armed golf, has altered the way we look at sport. But I note that very little has been done to improve the myopic image of short-sightedness.
It seems that once your eyeball grows too large and you need glasses to see properly, the sporting world more or less writes you off. I remember playing Rugby at school and touching down on the 25-yard line thinking that I’d scored a try – well, I couldn’t see the goalposts, could I? Then there was the day when, playing on the wing, I passed the ball to the touch-judge who was running alongside me, assuming, mistakenly, that he was on our side.
It was all quite tragic. Yes, I could have used contact lenses, but, when I tried them, they caused me to do nothing but cry and hence I couldn’t see the ball, the opposition, or anything else through my tears. And there was the dreadful fear that, in those sports where I could leave my glasses on, my spectacles would easily be shattered, glass would go into my eyes and I would be blinded for good.
Since I retired, however, I’ve noticed an increasing number of my fellow pensioners are wearing what I used to call jam-jar bottoms – ie, spectacles so thick that don’t even let you see round corners. And they’ve triumphed at sports such as bowls and deck quoits, at golf and petanque, at skittles and even darts.
Thus, it seems to work. But only up to a point. There were all those years when I didn’t train, and they tell me now it’s too late for me to get fit.
Anyway, luckily Torbay has some cracking events that suit short-sighted people like me, everything from cycling to carpet bowls, from cricket to croquet. I was even playing 10-pin bowling the other week at Torquay’s AMF bowling palace, and, provided you could find someone to look after your walking stick, you could do quite well.
Assuming you remember to let go of the ball, that is. Well, nobody’s perfect, I always say.