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27/10/2021

Longford Paralympian Patrick Flanagan 'gutted' as wheelchair destroyed on flight to Tokyo

‘Unacceptable and degrading’ – Longford Paralympian Patrick Flanagan 'gutted' as wheelchair destroyed on flight to Tokyo

‘Unacceptable and degrading’ – Longford Paralympian Patrick Flanagan 'gutted' as wheelchair destroyed on flight to Tokyo

Longford Paralympian Patrick Flanagan has described it as 'unacceptable and degrading' that his wheelchair was destroyed during his flight to the Tokyo Paralympic games. 

Upon landing in Heathrow airport yesterday, Patrick, took to the Twitter to say he was 'gutted' to discover his wheelchair had been broken.

"My chair is my independence and to be left in an over sized airport chair is degrading. This is not something that can happen to wheelchair users. It’s unacceptable,” he said. 

Patrick explained that the wheels on the chair were damaged to the point they could “no longer spin, along with a lot of other dents and scrapes."

Patrick tweeted: “The staff in Heathrow were extremely apologetic. But unfortunately an apology does very little for me. I was given an over sized airport wheelchair, filled out a claim form and sent on my way. I can barely push myself in this chair and simple tasks like getting around my hotel room are extremely tough. And now I have to fly to Tokyo.

“This is not something that can happen to wheelchair users. It’s unacceptable. Both Airlines and baggage handlers need to pay attention to chairs. My chair is my independence and takes months to be fitted and ordered. Mine is specifically sized to support my back, is light weight so I can lift it in to the car, and is extremely sturdy. It would not be damaged easily.

“I’m gutted to have to start out my Paralympic journey like this but I just can’t wait to get to Japan, join up with the rest of the team and put on a a performance to be proud of.”

There was some small consolation for Patrick when he confirmed that a replacement older chair was being flown out to meet him in Tokyo, but stressed that not all wheelchair users are lucky enough to have a spare.

PROFILE: Patrick Flanagan

Patrick has competed for Ireland on several previous occasions including the British National Championships. Competing at the European Para Youth Games in 2015 he won several medals. His favoured events are the 100m Backstroke and the 400m Freestyle.

Patrick was also represented Ireland at the 2018 Para Swimming European Championships held in Dublin, he missed out on a podium finish by less than two tenths of a second in the S6 freestyle 400m.

The following year he went on to represent his country at the 2019 Para Swimming World Championships in London. This year Patrick has shown some very encouraging form at the World Para Swimming European Championships in Portugal last month and he will be hoping to build on that form into Tokyo.

He was the proud recipient of the Swim Ireland Disability Swimmer of the Year award in 2012. A former member of Longford swimming club he also trained and completed at collegiate level with UCD where he is studied Economics and Finance. Patrick now trains with his colleagues Ellen Keane and Nicole Turner at the NAC Swim Club. Patrick has Spina Bifida.

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