The wheelchair marathon event was first introduced at the Stoke Mandeville 1984 Games

Author: Steve Katon, 9th June 2023

In our final article in a blog series that has reflected on the ‘Last-minute Paralympics’ hosted at Stoke Mandeville in 1984 after Illinois pulled out with just weeks to go, we’ll reflect on the legacy that remains to this day.

Our first article coincided with the London Marathon in April looking at many memories of wheelchair marathons (not only 1984 but remembering some stories from 2012). The article reflected on how the 1984 Games introduced the wheelchair marathon. This event has become such an eagerly anticipated event in subsequent Paralympic Games all thanks to Stoke Mandeville’s introduction.

While 1984’s marathon in Stoke Mandeville was an event for wheelchair athletes, subsequent Games have opened up events to a wide range of disability classes. In 2020 in Tokyo, a men’s marathon was held for visually impaired athletes and amputees running on prosthetics, as well as the original wheelchair race, while women competed in the visually impaired and wheelchair categories.

Medals from the 1984 Paralympic Games

Further alignment of the Paralympics continued after 1984. There was huge controversy in the USA’s original bid led by the American National Wheelchair Athletics Association (NWAA) to host a Games for wheelchair athletes only. One of the reasons the NWAA gave for this segregation was that they didn’t recognise the mutual social benefits of integrating the different classes of disability. Such views subsequently evolved and since the Seoul 1988 Summer Paralympics it has always been held in the same city as the Summer Olympics, two weeks later. The Paralympic Games now includes several categories covering different types of physical, visual and intellectual impairments with various levels within these categories.

We really enjoyed talking to Liam and Janette Redrup, who volunteered as teenagers at the 1984 Games in various capacities, ranging from holding the medals at ceremonies to helping run discos in the marquee at Stoke Mandeville. Liam and Janette went on to marry, a wonderful legacy in itself but it was heartwarming to hear they are still in touch with people they met all around the globe. In previous blogs we detailed the unforgettable sights and experiences they saw during the international tournament.

The final word should go to the people of Buckinghamshire and recognising the impact that the community had on the future of the Paralympic Games.