Carl discovers a love for sport - and wins his first gold medal at Inter Spinal Unit Games

A Highgate man has been crowned table tennis champion at the Inter Spinal Unit Games – an event where newly-injured patients can discover and compete in wheelchair sport.

Carl Griffith, of Chester Road, has been rehabilitating at the spinal cord injury centre in Stanmore following a spinal attack, which he describes as similar to a heart attack in that area of the body.

With his Stanmore team-mates, the 45-year-old travelled to Stoke Mandeville Stadium among 80 patients, who were representing 12 spinal injury centres from the UK and Ireland, in what is established as the leading sporting event for newly-injured patients.

“I was never into sport until I came to Stanmore and they really inspired [me to try] sport for physio and for getting a sense of being a person again after your injuries,” he said.

“I’ve never won a gold medal before. When I left Stanmore I wanted a way to repay them for all the work they did helping me and I think this is the best way to say thank you for their kindness, physio, nursing and guidance. They found the sport in me.

“Using sport as a form of rehab in hospitals, specifically in the spinal injuries units, is a brilliant way to help people, deal with losing in sports and extrapolate that throughout life.”

The annual Inter Spinal Unit Games, organised by national wheelchair sport charity WheelPower, aims to provide participants with the confidence and understanding to live a healthy active lifestyle after a spinal cord injury.

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WheelPower’s physical activity adviser Mark O’Neil, who is based at Stanmore, has supported Griffith throughout his rehabilitation.

O’Neil said: “He’s a great person to have when you are a physical activities adviser because he’s willing to do everything and it kind of encourages the other patients, and we’re hoping he’ll keep coming back.

“We’ve been playing a lot of table tennis recently at Stanmore, it’s an easier game to play for a wider range of disabilities or injuries. It’s fantastic, I am really pleased – his game has come on in the last few weeks.”