It’s been two years since Peter Genyn won gold in the Paralympic games in Rio...
As he adjusts the gearing on his lightweight wheelchair and checks for the third time that the steering is in place, it is difficult not to get the sense that for Peter, 2016 was just yesterday. It is a crisp spring morning and the sky above the Gran Canaria is crystal clear, the warm climate providing the perfect conditions for Peter’s demanding training regime.
This is no holiday: Peter is hard at work in preparation for the next games in 2020. The schedule is unforgiving, but as an elite athlete and world record holder in his class, he is unwavering in his focus. He is relaxed and genial between exercises and laps of the track, but there is no mistaking the steely determination behind his easy smile.
‘It’s an outlet,’ he grins. ‘I’m someone that needs sports. It brings out the best in you. I really need that. You watch your food, you do anything you can to be good on that day because those 20 seconds are so important. You work for it for four years. You don’t want to screw it up.’
Peter competes in the T51 class; the most severely disabled athletic class of the games. The Paralympic committee describes athletes in the category as “wheelchair competitors who have mild weakness in shoulders, limited ability in straightening elbows and wrist function, no finger, trunk or leg function.” In this class, he currently holds the 200-metre, and the 400-metre world record.
‘I held the 100-metre world record for about a week,’ he laughs.
The footage of Peter’s winning race in the men’s 100-metre final is phenomenal viewing, testament to human endeavour against the odds and just what our bodies are capable of regardless of impairment. It is a sobering thought that a pressure injury nearly ended his chances.
‘A pressure sore can make or break,’ he is suddenly serious. ‘It can make you lose a championship.’