A superhero sporting event featuring celebrity captains has brought excitement to children with disabilities.
On December 4, Superhero Series – the UK’s only mass-participation sports series dedicated to people with disabilities – hosted its winter event, Winter Wonderwheels, at the 2012 Summer Paralympic venue, Dorney Lake, Windsor.
The event saw more than 1,000 people with disabilities and their “sidekicks” take part in different running challenges including a 1k, 5k and 10k, all while dressed up as their favourite superheroes.
A highlight of the live event is the “celebrity Wonderwheels” 5k, where competition winners are captained by celebrities.
Australian comedian Adam Hills, who was a celebrity captain, was dressed up as his favourite superhero Spider-Man, which he said was a “dream come true”.
He told the PA news agency: “(The event) just sends me floating home with a smile on my face because of the vibrant, joyous atmosphere and I know what it means to the contestants taking part.”
He took part in the 5k with a nine-year-old called Henry, who uses a frame runner, and decided to take part in a frame runner as well “so that we could partner up”.
“The two of us running in a frame runner together was probably my highlight”, he added, even if he experienced the unexpected consequence of chafing in places “you’ve never chafed before” from using it.
Hills added that Henry had been reading one of his children’s books, so was “quite excited” to have him as a teammate, while Henry’s seven-year-old brother, who does not have a disability, took part alongside the duo in a scooter.
“I like being a team captain and being involved because it gives families the chance to all compete together, which when you’ve got one child with a disability doesn’t always happen,” he said.
He also referred to the event founder and Paralympian Sophia Warner as a “force of nature”.
“Everyone that comes along to it becomes a convert and becomes addicted to it straight away – she can’t be lauded highly enough for what she’s done,” Hills added.
Sophia Warner told PA that when she first thought of the idea, she had “no idea it was going to be as big as it has been”.
“I had this idea because I was massively frustrated that mass participation sports events didn’t exist for people with disabilities, so it was quite a personal mission,” she said.
“I remember hoping in the first year that a couple of hundred people would come and now it’s obviously much bigger than that.”
She added that she has many highlights from the event over the years.
“There’s a couple of children who have been coming since they were three and we’ve seen them come on in such big ways, so that’s definitely a big highlight.”
As for her favourite superhero, she said she “always likes to get dressed up as Captain Marvel” and hoped the theme would encourage participants to “find their superpowers”.
“Because what I love hearing whenever we interview any of the children is that they relate so closely to the superheroes and their superpowers and what it means to them.
“I want them to believe that anything is possible.”
The event is in its sixth year and is happening in-person for the first time since the pandemic.