Inspiring bomb victim gets volley of support from crowd

Sat, Sep 1, 2012, 01:00

THE EXCEL’S prosaically named South Arena 2 was the place where the Irish boxers won their medals in the Olympic Games.

It has now been transformed for the Paralympics into the venue for the sitting volleyball competition and yesterday featured one of the game’s most unforeseen stars.

Martine Wright (39) is a living reminder of how triumph and terrorism were so enmeshed on two fateful days in July 2005.

On July 6th she had celebrated into the night when London won the bid to stage the 2012 Olympic and Paralympic games.

In the film Sliding Doors, a woman’s fate is changed by the simple act of having got on a different tube train in London. In Wright’s case it was a terrible example of art imitating life.

On the morning of July 7th she was running 20 minutes late when she took a Circle Line train.

Wright was sitting beside suicide bomber Shehzad Tanweer when he detonated a bomb that killed him and seven others. She lost 75 per cent of her blood and both her legs. Her life was saved by an off-duty policewoman who tied a tourniquet around her leg.

Such an experience would crush all but the most strong-willed, but Wright has impressed everybody not just with her cheery demeanour, but with her determination to make the best of a cruel twist of fate.

Being alive, she says, is to be celebrated when 52 other people died on that day (from four separate bombs).

She took up sitting volleyball as part of her rehabilitation and forced herself into the British squad for the Paralympics.

There was a thunderous response when she was introduced as a replacement during the second set of Britain’s first match of the Paralympics against Ukraine yesterday morning. Among those in the audience was London mayor Boris Johnson.

Her husband Nick, who she married after 7/7, and her three-year-old son Oscar were there too. Oscar carried a homemade banner which read: “Go Mummy Go”. He sat on his father’s shoulders through the event.

Each team had six players, with varying degrees of disability. Some players looked to all the world as if they were able-bodied, others had one leg, but only Wright had no legs.

Team GB lost the game 3-0, which was unsurprising given that the sport did not even exist in Britain until three years ago, while Ukraine are one of the strongest seeds.

Wright faced into a forest of microphones after the match.

It is unlikely that any sitting volleyball player has ever received such attention.

She has revelled in her role as one of the stories of the games. “One of my motivations is that I truly believe that I was meant to do this journey,” she said, reiterating the point she made continually before the games, that somehow tragedy in her case was also destiny.

Her triumph in adversity over evil is one of the great stories of the Paralympics, even in a competition replete with such tales.

“I suppose if people take something from my story and my journey, sometimes that gives me strength and inspiration. I’ve just got to keep going,” she said.

“If I can inspire people at home who are able-bodied or disabled to pick up a ball, then my job is done.”