Paralympian Darren Leach was in Eastbourne at the weekend to receive a body cast sculpture made as part of a talented woman’s project.
The Royal London Society for Blind People (RLSB) ambassador was at the Sovereign Centre in Royal Parade on Saturday (March 30) and was presented with the sculpture of his torso which was created by Louise Giblin, ARBS.
She has cast the heads and torsos of numerous models including three time Olympian and gymnast Beth Tweddle MBE, former 400m hurdles Olympic champion Sally Gunnell and Dame Kelly Holmes Holmes who specialised in the 800 metres and 1,500 metres events.
It was made as part of her ‘Body Casting Olympians’ series.
Referring to the experience of the cast being made, Darren, a vision impaired Paralympic and international gold medallist swimmer, said, “The experience was like being covered over with warm towels and then as if they were being pulled tight.
“Having to stand still for that long was probably the hardest thing for me as I am such an active person.
“It was a pleasure and an honour to be asked to be part of the project as a paraylympian.
“Lots of people I have told about my casting have said that in a strange way being immortalised in bronze was right for me, one said I must have been a Greek warrior in a former life to have come through all I have.”
The presentation on Saturday formed part of a Sports without Limits activity day run by RLSB, a charity supporting young blind people in London and the south east.
Darren met the young people aged 11-20 attending the RLSB Sports activity day and spoke to them about his experiences as a vision impaired athlete, his inspirational achievements and the importance of getting engaged in sports.
He also provided tips for those wanting to push their talents further.
Referring to the postiive impact of sports for young vision impaired people he added, “People learn to treat you as an athlete, rather than a vision impaired person and you gain respect.
“It also builds up self-esteem, friendship and helps you socialise more.
“You’re not put in a box. You’re equal.”
RLSB’s Sports without Limits programme has been developed to encourage vision impaired people aged between 11 and 20 to get engaged in sports.
The taster days include a mix of sports including football, cricket and goal ball, allowing participants to try a new sport and regularly participate in those that they enjoy.
Florence Orban, director of community services at RLSB, said, “Sports can overcome the hard challenges of isolation, anxiety and depression which is many blind young people face.
“We know from experience that sport can very much help with self-confidence, mobility and community inclusion.”
Darren, who is a keen supporter of the programme that Sports without Limits offer, added, “RLSB’s Sports without Limits taster days are great because kids can try different sports, pick a favourite and get linked in with RLSB then the rest of that sport’s network like a big spider’s web.
“They’ll get the support they need to do sport on a regular basis, and for some, to be really great.”
Louise has a BA in scultpure and a MA in history and theory of modern art. She works and lives on the Kent and East Sussex border.
The production and exhibition of Louise’s work is broadcast on Louise’s BodyCastSculptor You Tube channel and her work has been shown in London, Hong Kong, Scotland, and across the south of England.