Published: 00:00, 21 March 2017
A double amputee chosen to represent Team GB across the globe is appealing for donations after the government cut every penny of their funding.
Despite undergoing more than 50 operations after being born with a genetic skeletal problem in all four of his limbs, inspirational Oliver Mangion, 21, fought against the odds and is now the youngest member of Team GB’s wheelchair rugby elite squad.
But after reaching his dream, the joy has been short-lived after the government decided to withdraw the £3 million they need to train and to fund equipment and travel.
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Ollie, of Belvedere Road in Faversham, now needs your help to achieve a goal he once believed was entirely out of his reach - the Tokyo Paralympics 2020.
He said: “If anyone spends more than five minutes with me, it is quite easy to see my disabilities.
VIDEO: Ollie talks about his disability.
“My lower arms in particular are quite short for an adult male and it has affected the bone growth in my hands, which meant I had multiple surgeries when I was young and I have had many hand and toe transplants.
“When I had my legs amputated, part of my toe was used as a vessel for extra fingers.
“All the surgery I have had has definitely helped me in the long-term, but there’s no denying my dexterity is severely affected.”
Small tasks we all take for granted such as using a zip or tying shoe laces are all a challenge for Ollie, but from a young age, sport gave him a new lease of life.
He was once picked to compete in London 2012 as a swimmer, but the amount of surgery he was enduring at that time stopped him from pursuing his ambitions to the Paralympics.
He has also tried blade-running, athletics and sitting volleyball, but his life was transformed when he discovered wheelchair rugby.
When new club Canterbury Hellfire was launched, headed by London 2012’s Team GB captain Steve Brown, it was the perfect opportunity to kick-start Ollie’s career.
“I loved wheelchair rugby from the moment I started playing. It makes me feel amazing" - Ollie Mangion
He said: “I loved wheelchair rugby from the moment I started playing. It makes me feel amazing.
“Two years ago I was picked for Team GB’s development squad after taking part in some intense trials and since then I have been training really, really hard and in January, I was fortunate enough to be chosen for the elite squad – the highest you can get in the country.
“It is the beginning of an amazing journey for me and I had such a sense of accomplishment and joy.”
But up until recently, Team GB were funded by UK Sports which set goals for each of the sports they support.
The wheelchair rugby team is the only paralympic sport to have all their funding cut completely.
Ollie said: “It was a huge blow to everyone and nobody was expecting it.
“It is all about medals and performance, and if you don’t perform, it’s a cut-throat business, and we didn’t get a medal.
“There is plenty people who think it’s too harsh of a punishment.
“We are on the verge, right on the knife-edge of getting a medal, so it has hurt us as a sport a lot, but it doesn’t mean that our athletes are not continuing to work hard and work towards getting a medal.”
The team have raised just under £15,000 in just over two weeks but there is still a long way to go.
Ollie is hoping for donations and is always on the lookout for sponsorship to cover the costs for equipment, travel and all the essentials of being a full-time disabled athlete.
Ollie added: “I would love to compete at the Tokyo Paralympics and hopefully beyond.
“I found out in the last few days that I have been chosen for the European championships this summer and I hope this is the first of many.
“I just wanted to say thank you to everyone who has supported me and everyone who has been donating on our page and supporting us.
“Any donation is very much appreciated and we want to ensure everyone we are working hard as athletes to continue our trend and get that medal in Tokyo.”
To donate, click here to visit the JustGiving site.
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