Val Williamson competed as an archer in the British team between 1980 and 1992 and won the silver medal at the 1980 Arnhem Games.

An interview with Val Williamson about competing at the 1980 Arnhem Games

Interviewer Catherine Turnbull-Ross, November 2012

When I started it was, pat you on the head, “Have a go.” Now they are as good as the rest. And within archery as a sport there are a number of county champions who are disabled archers.

Download a pdf of Val's full interview here

Extract of the interview where Val describes her first meeting with Poppa Guttmann and her impressions of Stoke Mandeville…..
 
Interviewer: “I understand that you met Poppa Guttman”
 

VW: “Yes, my husband was also paraplegic and one has a medical to decide what level of disability you are, so you’re competing in an even competition. So, we went down for the medical, and obviously Bernie was T5 para, no discussion. Then Poppa said to Bernard ‘What’s wrong with her?’.

Bernard said, ‘Well, she’s been disabled from birth’. I was a miscarriage that lived; so therefore, it

was brain damage, rather than spinal damage. Poppa’s comment on that was, ‘Well, we’ll give her a medical and see  where she fits.’.

He was brilliant. He was so understanding. And he taught us so much in that twenty minutes. We realised prior to that we were green as grass.

VW: “I married a paraplegic in 1962 and we were instrumental in forming a disabled sports club in Northampton, in the late 1960s/early 1970s. Then we decided we wanted to be competitive and this is how we came to be in contact with Stoke Mandeville. So, it was in 1977 that we first went to Stoke and that’s where we met Poppa. Poppa’s answer was ‘Let’ s give you a medical and see, because the effect is lower limb paralysis‘. So therefore I got a Paralympic rating of L1.

And Bernard and I joined SPAC, which is Stoke Paraplegic Athletic Club. I’m not sure if it’s even in existence now. And we had many, many happy hours down there. Every fortnight we’d go down there on a Saturday afternoon and stay in the old huts in the old hospital. Sheep and goats, men in one hut, women in the other hut. But it was brilliant; and we got to know a lot of really inspiring people, and it gave us the encouragement to see others, which you didn’t get that chance very often.

And, it was in 1980 that I first got the chance to go to the Paralympics. That was through Don Gould who used to run the archery training, and Pauline Betteridge who was a physio, and I think is still connected with the organisation now. “