Hitchin teenager takes second place in Mini London Wheelchair Marathon

Jack Gower prepares for the Mini London Wheelchair Marathon. Picture: Ella Gower.

Jack Gower prepares for the Mini London Wheelchair Marathon. Picture: Ella Gower. - Credit: Archant

A determined 13-year-old boy with cerebral palsy secured second place in the Mini London Wheelchair Marathon and has his sights firmly set on competing in the Paralympics.

Jack Gower with his medal. Picture: Ella Gower.

Jack Gower with his medal. Picture: Ella Gower. - Credit: Archant

Jack Gower, who lives in Stotfold Road in Hitchin, has spastic paraplegic cerebral palsy - a condition which makes his limbs extremely stiff.

In July 2015 he had a life-changing operation at London's Great Ormond Street Hospital which enabled him to walk independently, although he still relies on a wheelchair for longer distances and continues to have regular physiotherapy.

Early last year Jack discovered a love of wheelchair athletics and began training once a week at Ridlins in Stevenage, becoming a member of the Stevenage and North Herts Athletics Club.

But he was training with a broken racing wheelchair, which belonged to the club and was too big for him.

Jack competed in last year's Mini London Wheelchair Marathon - the last three miles of the London Marathon course - but, part-way round, the footplate his feet were strapped to snapped off. Bystanders improvised to reattach it so he could continue.

Following an appeal in the Comet, the community helped raise £3,400 to buy Jack his very own racing wheelchair.

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And Jack competed in this year's Mini London Wheelchair Marathon, comfortably taking second place in the Under 14 boys' category with a time of 18 minutes 42 seconds.

Mum Ella said: "He absolutely loved it. He was so quick he'd crossed the finish line before we were able to get in position!

"He didn't expect that kind of time or placing."

She added: "Jack transferred to Harlow Athletic Club in September because Stevenage only has the option of Monday night training and Jack now trains three times a week.

"He's getting stronger, and training with a whole squad makes a massive difference.

"His coach is British Paralympic athlete Richard Chiassaro, who has taught Jack so much and enabled him to improve his technique and, in the process, get faster.

"Getting his own racing wheelchair has been a key part of his progress. Without it he would still be languishing at the back.

"Jack's amazed us all, but he's always been determined and has his sights on the Paralympics."

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