Cyclist Simon Richardson lights last Paralympic cauldron in Cardiff

 

An injured cyclist whose Paralympics dream was dashed by a drink-driver ignited the last cauldron to be lit ahead of the 2012 games.

Simon Richardson won two golds and one silver medal at the Beijing Paralympics in 2008.

His hopes of representing Great Britain on home soil came to an abrupt end last summer when he was knocked off his bike while training.

But the 45-year-old sportsman, who has vowed to return to action, was given a boost on his road to recovery after getting the Paralympic Torch relay under way in south Wales this morning.

After lighting the cauldron outside a rain-soaked Cardiff City Hall, Richardson said: "I would have preferred to have been competing but this is the next best thing.

"It was such a shock to get the phone call asking me to do this."

Cardiff is the last of four cities in the UK to hold a festival marking the arrival of the Paralympic flame.

Flames from Wales, Scotland, Northern Ireland and England will unite before a relay to Wednesday's opening ceremony.

A cauldron was lit in London on Friday, while events took place in Belfast and Edinburgh over the weekend.

Welsh Government Sports Minister Huw Lewis said today's event in the Welsh capital was perfectly poignant.

"Simon Richardson perfectly embodies the courage and determination of the Paralympic spirit," he added.

The flame, flanked by a team of officers in BMWs from the Metropolitan Police, then made its way to Rookwood Hospital in Llandaff, Cardiff.

The facility, which has specialist spinal and neurological rehabilitation wards, has treated many past Welsh Paralympic athletes.

A pair of gold-coloured lanterns, with a silver 2012 logo, were given to two nursing staff before going on a tour of the hospital.

Twelve-year-old schoolboy Ethan Roberts of Treuddyn, near Mold, got the honour of entering the neurological ward with the lamp - before passing it around to patients.

Among those getting to grips with the flame was 61-year-old Geoff Thomas Vennard, who was in a coma for more than five months after a freak accident at his home in Barry.

He said: "I suddenly felt dizzy at the top of the stairs and then the next thing I was falling down them.

"As I went to stand up, I fell back and knocked my head against the wall.

"All I can remember after that was waking up in a coma and learning I'd lost six pints of blood.

"I've been in hospital now for around nine months and am looking forward to getting home.

"So getting to see the flame and the excitement surrounding it has been a real boost."

That sentiment was echoed by the ward's clinical director, Jenny Thomas.

She said: "The Paralympics can be a fantastic source of inspiration to many patients like the ones we look after.

"It just shows that it is still possible to achieve things - and that is evident by the number of many Paralympians we have helped over the years."

Scores of youngsters at Championship side Cardiff City's House of Sport Coaching Academy also got involved with the spirit of things at an event celebrating the imminent start of the Paralympic Games.

The indoor arena, just a stone's throw from the Cardiff City Stadium, opened two years ago and sees its 4G artificial pitch used by a wide range of people - from seasoned pros like Bluebirds ace Craig Bellamy to aspiring soccer stars.

Chris McDermott, a co-ordinator at The House of Sport, said disability football had seen its popularity rise in the run-up to the 2012 Games.

He said: "There's six different impairments that we cater for and, while we haven't got a team member in the ParalympicsGB squad, we have had players play for Wales.

"Football can play a positive role for someone with a disability.

"Our members range from five to 45 years old and, as well as the obvious health benefits, it can also boost their self-confidence."

The sporting theme continued into the afternoon with a series of outdoor demonstrations in The Hayes in Cardiff city centre.

Shoppers stopped in their tracks and posed for photos with an unlit official torch, ahead of the main relay.

And, despite the continuing downpour, active youngsters braved the rain to show off their skills in table tennis and judo as well as a display from the Cardiff Celts wheelchair basketball team.

PA

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Life and Style
love + sex
Arts and Entertainment
Victoria Wood, Kayvan Novak, Alexa Chung, Chris Moyles
tvReview: No soggy bottoms, but plenty of other baking disasters on The Great Comic Relief Bake Off
Sport
Ashley Young celebrates the winner for Manchester United against Newcastle
footballNewcastle 0 Man United 1: Last minute strike seals precious victory
Life and Style
Tikka Masala has been overtaken by Jalfrezi as the nation's most popular curry
food + drink
Arts and Entertainment
Seth Rogan is one of America’s most famous pot smokers
filmAmy Pascal resigned after her personal emails were leaked following a cyber-attack sparked by the actor's film The Interview
News
Benjamin Netanyahu and his cartoon bomb – the Israeli PM shows his ‘evidence’
people
Arts and Entertainment
80s trailblazer: comedian Tracey Ullman
tv
News
i100
Life and Style
A statue of the Flemish geographer Gerard Kremer, Geradus Mercator (1512 - 1594) which was unveiled at the Geographical Congree at Anvers. He was the first person to use the word atlas to describe a book of maps.
techThe 16th century cartographer created the atlas
Arts and Entertainment
Stephen Tompkinson is back as DCI Banks
tvReview: Episode one of the new series played it safe, but at least this drama has a winning formula
News
i100
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Day In a Page

War with Isis: Iraq's government fights to win back Tikrit from militants - but then what?

Baghdad fights to win back Tikrit from Isis – but then what?

Patrick Cockburn reports from Kirkuk on a conflict which sectarianism has made intractable
Living with Alzheimer's: What is it really like to be diagnosed with early-onset dementia?

What is it like to live with Alzheimer's?

Depicting early-onset Alzheimer's, the film 'Still Alice' had a profound effect on Joy Watson, who lives with the illness. She tells Kate Hilpern how she's coped with the diagnosis
The Internet of Things: Meet the British salesman who gave real-world items a virtual life

Setting in motion the Internet of Things

British salesman Kevin Ashton gave real-world items a virtual life
Election 2015: Latest polling reveals Tories and Labour on course to win the same number of seats - with the SNP holding the balance of power

Election 2015: A dead heat between Mr Bean and Dick Dastardly!

Lord Ashcroft reveals latest polling – and which character voters associate with each leader
Audiences queue up for 'true stories told live' as cult competition The Moth goes global

Cult competition The Moth goes global

The non-profit 'slam storytelling' competition was founded in 1997 by the novelist George Dawes Green and has seen Malcolm Gladwell, Salman Rushdie and Molly Ringwald all take their turn at the mic
Pakistani women come out fighting: A hard-hitting play focuses on female Muslim boxers

Pakistani women come out fighting

Hard-hitting new play 'No Guts, No Heart, No Glory' focuses on female Muslim boxers
Leonora Carrington transcended her stolid background to become an avant garde star

Surreal deal: Leonora Carrington

The artist transcended her stolid background to become an avant garde star
LGBT History Month: Pupils discuss topics from Sappho to same-sex marriage

Education: LGBT History Month

Pupils have been discussing topics from Sappho to same-sex marriage
11 best gel eyeliners

Go bold this season: 11 best gel eyeliners

Use an ink pot eyeliner to go bold on the eyes with this season's feline flicked winged liner
Cricket World Cup 2015: Tournament runs riot to make the event more hit than miss...

Cricket World Cup runs riot to make the event more hit than miss...

The tournament has reached its halfway mark and scores of 300 and amazing catches abound. One thing never changes, though – everyone loves beating England
Katarina Johnson-Thompson: Heptathlete ready to jump at first major title

Katarina Johnson-Thompson: Ready to jump at first major title

After her 2014 was ruined by injury, 21-year-old Briton is leading pentathlete going into this week’s European Indoors. Now she intends to turn form into gold
Syrian conflict is the world's first 'climate change war', say scientists, but it won't be the last one

Climate change key in Syrian conflict

And it will trigger more war in future
How I outwitted the Gestapo

How I outwitted the Gestapo

My life as a Jew in wartime Berlin
The nation's favourite animal revealed

The nation's favourite animal revealed

Women like cuddly creatures whilst men like creepy-crawlies
Is this the way to get young people to vote?

Getting young people to vote

From #VOTESELFISH to Bite the Ballot