Documentary on Paralympic icon Chris Hallam who in the late 1980’s challenged preconceptions of disability sport and helped transform it into something that would become watched by billions across the world. He would also become a mentor and icon to the next generation of Paralympian’s like Baroness Tanni Grey Thompson and David Weir.
A motorcycle accident at the age of 17 resulted in accomplished able-bodied swimmer, Chris Hallam, becoming a wheelchair user. Despite the life-changing accident Chris continued with his passion for swimming and won the 50m breast stroke at the World Disabled games a few years later.
But it was in wheelchair racing that Chris made his greatest mark – on and off the track he would win the London Marathon twice in record times, would compete in four Paralympic games and would hold world records in every distance from 100m to a marathon.
It was off the track where Chris’s influence was most felt. He fought relentlessly to get the sport recognized and to break down attitudinal barriers around the sport.
After retiring from the sport Chris would suffer from ill health and battled with lymphoma over a ten year period before passing away at the age of 50. Chris will always be remembered as a hero to Cwmbran and to Welsh sports.
Baroness Tanni Grey-Thomson said that without Chris there would be no wheelchair racing today as we know it. For many, Chris helped propel the sport out of the shadows and into mainstream media and inspire a new generation of para-athletes.
The episode will air Thursday 22 August on BBC One Wales at 10:35pm and will be available on the BBC iPlayer.
Mavericks: Sport’s Lost Heroes – Episode 3 – Bomber: Newport’s Rocky
David “Bomber” Pearce, known locally as the Newport Rocky, grew up on the notorious streets of Pill, Newport. Coming from a boxing-mad family, David quickly became a young British talent and made his professional debut at the age of 19. It took only 5 years for the Bomber to claim the British Heavyweight Title from fellow Welshman Neville Mead in 1983.
Despite his obvious talent and fierce reputation, Pearce found it difficult to progress in the heavyweight division. He lacked the backing of other fighters while many rising stars of the sport wanted to avoid such a powerful puncher.
As he struggled to make a living he was then given a devastating diagnosis. A routine brain scan revealed irregularities which threw his boxing career into jeopardy. The scan led to Pearce being banned from the sport soon after his challenge for the European Heavyweight title in 1985. David battled to get the ban overturned but all his efforts were to no avail as his time and money were running out.
Of all his fights, it would one outside of the ring which would be his biggest battle. His health was further complicated as he developed both epilepsy and Alzheimer’s disease. His illness advanced at an alarming rate and in 2000 he sadly passed away at the age of 41.
During his fighting prime David made a point of saying that he fought “for Newport” and took every opportunity to put the city and his home of Pill on the map. Determined that a favourite son would not be forgotten, the people of Pill and Newport rallied to build a statue in remembrance of the late boxer.
The campaign brought in boxing fans from all over the UK who remembered and his brutal ability in the ring (one of the more unlikely supporters was Britain’s most dangerous prisoner, Charles Bronson who donated art to be auctioned in aid of the statue).
David Pearce fought for Newport, and when he couldn’t fight no more, Newport fought for him. With the full co-operation of the Pearce family this is a celebration of a lost son of the city whose statue now stands proudly on the side of the river.
This episode will air Thursday 5 September on BBC One Wales at 10:35pm and will be available on the BBC iPlayer.