Active Inspiration

The Prague Post

Disabled sports club and athletes featured at ongoing photo exhibition

Sweat covers the brows of the athletes in the photos, their faces contorted into looks of concentration. Skiers, bikers, runners – all are represented in Tomáš Lisý’s photo exhibition at the ABC Theatre. With a closer look, you quickly realize there is something different about these athletes: They are disabled.

“The idea was to connect disabled people and elite sport competitions through photographs,” said Bohuslav Hulka, chairman of the Wheelchair Sports Club Prague (SKV Praha). Many of the photos are of the group’s members, while others are from past Paralympic Games held in Beijing in 2008 and Vancouver in 2010.

“The aim of the club is to activate people after an accident, to get them to move and be active,” Hulka said. “This exhibit should help popularize disabled sports and help us to be better known.”

Freelance photographer Lisý has been taking photos of disabled people for nearly 10 years. A skier as well, he coaches the club’s ski team. He attended the Beijing Paralympics with journalist credentials and went to Vancouver as a coach.

“I have many amazing friends who I met thanks to disabled sports and taking pictures like this,” Lisý said. “It is very important to me because it is a big part of my life.”

“This exhibition isn’t only about winners and medals but pictures I like,” he added. “I wouldn’t want to show only top-level photos but also show sports with disabled people having fun; it’s about the people.”

One of his favorite photos is of Miroslav Šperk, a multitalented athlete. In this photo he is smoothly skiing down a mountain during this year’s IPC Disabled Alpine Skiing National Championships in France. Šperk just got into skiing, having won a silver medal in discuss at the 2000 Paralympic Games in Athens.

“This picture tells what could be – not only sports but concentration, speed. It’s everything,” Lisý said.

One of Hulka’s favorite photos is a noncompetitive one. A woman and man are biking: The man is disabled, and the woman is not. Both have big grins on their faces and are obviously enjoying each other’s company. Hulka said the man pictured, Rudolf, is nearly 60; he competes in downhill skiing on a ski he made himself, and he also built the hand bike he is riding in the photo.

SKV Praha has five official sports: floorball, skiing, orienteering, table tennis and diving. Hulka said they also participate in other sports like biking, rafting and water skiing. Hulka himself is part of the floorball team, and also the orienteering team, which is his favorite. He said he likes that it can be done by the able-bodied and disabled together.

The club has about 100 permanent members, plus others who participate in occasional activities. It’s a year-round sports schedule, with the floorball team, for example, training once a week and then participating in about eight to 10 competitions throughout the year. The orienteering team has attended events in the Czech Republic and Scandinavia, and the ski team spends time in the snowy Austrian Alps.

There is also a noncompetitive scuba team, which accommodates people with severe disabilities such as quadriplegics. They dive with able-bodied divers, and Lisý said it’s great because they have so few sport options available to them.

There are photos of 41-year-old skier Oldrich Jelínek, who just participated in his first Paralympic Games in Vancouver. One shows him sitting in a back room in his wheelchair looking exhausted.

“This was an everyday story in Vancouver,” Lisý said. “Waiting for the weather.”

SKV Praha is a nonprofit organization whose goal is to help disabled people participate in sports. It is funded through sponsorships and donors. Betting company Fortuna sponsors the photo exhibition, which helps allow the group to participate in competitions like the Paralympic Games. Most of the money and resources go toward buying the specialized sports equipment the athletes need, as well as funding volunteers to travel with the teams. Each athlete needs one able-bodied helper, and Hůlka said they are so grateful for the volunteers they have. They hope this exhibition will help increase awareness of the club and inspire people to give of their time or money.

“For able-bodied people, it’s very easy to play sports, to hop on your bike and go, but for disabled people it’s more difficult, and more important,” Lisý said, adding that sports gives them an opportunity to make new friends and is important for both physical and mental well-being.

“Getting people with disabilities to be active is the most important thing,”” Hulka added. “I can’t imagine my life without sports.”