‘I forget I’m in pain’: UK’s first Para Ice Hockey camp in Nottingham gives disabled athletes ‘freedom’

Video: Owen Shipton met Nottingham’s Para Ice Hockey team

Athletes from the UK’s first-ever Para Ice Hockey camp in Nottingham say they play because of the ‘freedom you don’t have in a wheelchair’.

Female players of all abilities and ages from around the UK descended on the ice at Nottingham Arena on May 26-28 with some athletes saying taking part helps them to ‘forget they’re in pain’.

Susan Cook, who used to serve in the Armed Forces, has complex regional pain syndrome, a condition which means she suffers from persistent severe and debilitating pain, and attended the training camp.

She said: “It means for me, from the waist down, it feels as if someone has constantly set me on fire and is burning me up.

“When I’m out on the ice, it’s really bizarre but I’m so into what I’m doing, and I’m so busy trying to not fall over that I actually forget I’m in pain.

“Everything makes me smile on the ice no matter how much pain I’m in; I just feel like I’ve had an awesome session no matter what.”

The UK’s first ever Para Ice Hockey training camp in full flow

Some of the athletes took to the ice for the first time since being disabled.

Ashley Greening, who has the same condition as Susan, said: “My left leg is numb and my right leg from the knee below is in constant pain, like someone has hit it with a sledgehammer.

“I grew up on the ice and when I was able bodied, I had an accident which meant I couldn’t skate for ages.

“I haven’t skated for about five years and being able to get back on the ice is amazing for me.”

Despite the training camp being the first of its kind ever in the UK, organisers are hoping a Team GB squad will form and go for glory at the 2022 Winter Olympics in Beijing.

Caroline Bonner, who plays at centre for the European women’s team, said: “For many years, I’ve been the only one playing Para Ice Hockey in the UK.

“I just get a huge sense of freedom when I’m on the ice – it gives me the kind of freedom that I don’t get when I’m off the ice and in a wheelchair.

“The dream is the 2022 Winter Olympic games – at the minute there are three teams competing worldwide and we could become a power.

“Just in this one camp alone, we’ve got quite a few girls who are interested in being here and all of the ones that are here want to take it further.”

For more from the Para Ice Hockey team, watch the May 31 episode of Sports Week on Notts TV at 7.30pm on Freeview 7, Virgin 159 and Sky 117 or see our catch up service.

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