Wheelchair appeal follows Jack’s international debut
By any standards Jack Binstead has packed a lot into his 27 years. And what makes it all the more impressive is that he has suffered from Osteogenesis Imperfecta (Brittle Bone) disease for the duration. By RJ Mitchell.
By his own estimation Jack has suffered around 100 broken bones as a result of the debilitating and potentially life-threatening condition which, as it says on the tin, causes bones to break and weaken.
Amazingly inspite of this his achievements are incredible, from wheelchair racing at the age of nine to representing the disabled England pool team. Then there is the TV highlights reel that spans a starring role as Rem Dogg in BBC3’s Bad Education to a part in the Disney production of 101 Dalmatians.
Yet in August all that which had gone before was displaced by a new love. Jack found padel!
And now, several months later, he has already represented the new GB Adaptive Padel Team in international competition in Dubai. And, as he admitted, it has been a whirlwind start to his padel career: “Padel came around quite suddenly in August and it was never a plan of mine but now it has taken precedence over everything else.
“Luke Dolphin, my good buddy and now also the adaptive padel coach for the UK, is a Babolat sponsored coach at Rocks Lane in Chiswick, London, where I train. He had asked me to take padel up on a number of occasions.
“But I’d never tried racket sports, although in the back of my mind I’d always thought about taking up tennis. I had an interest but never tried. Eventually I gave in and Luke put me in a tennis wheelchair they had. I completely fell in love with padel within an hour and I don’t think I went home for a month!”
Following a conversation with another inspirational athlete – Italian Alessandro Ossola, who co-founded Bionic People after losing a leg in a motorcycle accident and went on to found the Inclusive Padel Tour which has swept across Europe – ‘Jack GB’ found himself on a plane to Dubai.
“Alessandro is an incredible guy and has really driven inclusive padel. In October he invited me out to Dubai for one of his tournaments,” said Jack.
With the tournament format dictating that a disabled player partners a non-disabled partner per team and eight pairings per group, the competition was stiff and Jack and partner Luke Dolphin just failed to escape the group stages.
As Jack admitted it was a baptism of fire: “We are skilled at what we do and Luke is far more advanced than I am but we hit a wall although we are happy with that for our first international event.
“It is the first time anyone with a disability has played padel out of the UK and this sums up the message of the Inclusive Padel Tour – ‘we are out here, doing our thing and determined to spread a message’.”
Yet with Jack facing off against blade padel players – those who use prosthetic leg limbs or ‘blades’ – the difference in being adaptive (wheelchair-bound) to inclusive (prosthetic playing) was brought home to him: “There were three guys including me playing in a wheelchair and then 17 amputees with blades or prosthetic legs. To compete against someone with a blade for someone like me who is in a wheelchair is a very tough task.
“With the blade and the spring in their prosthetics it was unbelievable, they could get to balls which they had no right to get to – in two paces!”
Undeterred, Jack is back in training and determined to champion the UK Adaptive Padel Team’s cause, for whom he has already secured a training sponsor in the PlayBrave sportswear range which includes Jamie Murray as a global ambassador.
Now Jack is himself in need of a sponsor to help cover the cost of the new customised wheelchair he needs to help compete on the international circuit.
Currently using an outdated 10-year-old model, which at 15kg is almost three times the weight of current state-of-the-art chairs used by the likes of wheelchair tennis legends Gordon Reid and Alfie Hewitt, Jack admits his need of new wheels is in pole position.
He said: “The chair I am using is an entry level chair supplied by a tennis charity and it has done the rounds over a number of years so it isn’t built for me. I need to obtain sponsorship for a new tennis chair. Top range ones are made from titanium, aircraft aluminium or carbon, weighs 6kg and costs around £5,000.”
So why is the chair so important to adaptive padel play: “The weight of the chair is vital as your reaction times need to be faster than if you played disabled tennis. In padel you have a smaller court but the balls are still being hit at the same speed as tennis (almost!) and you need to be able to move off a six pence piece. The tyres are very important and also the fluidity of the mechanisms so the type of chair that Gordon (Reid) or Alfie (Hewitt) have would be a dream for me and would suit my needs for many years. This is the next big thing for me and, as I say, it will last for 10 years and allow me to compete at the highest level.”
If you are interested in sponsoring Jack’s chair contact Luke Dolphin: firstname.lastname@example.org