Binstead and Martin, London Mini Marathon. Jack Binstead (U14) and Collette Martin (U17) in the Wheelchairs Mini Marathon on 17 April 2011. Taken from Birdcage Walk by Snappa.
For the book 8,000 Holes: How the 2012 Olympic Torch Relay Lost its Way Carol interviewed the mother of wheelchair racer Jack Binstead. Here we publish a more in depth interview with Jack and his family.
Wheelchair athlete Jack Binstead is now aiming for the 2016 Paralympics after the disappointment of missing out on being a torch bearer in his home town of Kingston-on-Thames.
Jack got through to the final stage but the story of how the fifteen year old Kingston kid known as Wheelz to his 3,000 Twitter followers, was overlooked by LOCOG, is heartbreaking.
“I have raced the London mini-marathon five or six times and I have won about three times. Obviously I wanted to be selected and I understand, but I was told that the people who are carring it aren’t actually from the Borough and that is one thing that isn’t good,” Jack said.
Jack lives his life with a positive attitude. Having brittle bone disease, his humour and determination has seen him in a TV role in Bad Education, pose alongside David Beckham this week and feature in an Adidas campaign across Kingston.
His parents, Penny and Graham Binstead brought him up to be his own person.
“Many children with brittle bones are wrapped up with cotton wool because their parents did not want them to actually feel the pain. We have always brought Jack up to enjoy life and not to be frightened about what could happen,” Penny said.
Jack has had 64 broken bones, once winning a race five days after breaking a leg – another time racing with a dislocated hip. When asked about racing with a broken rib Jack simply said “It was not really much of a worry.”
Penny claims that contact with world class athletes like Paralympian David Weir has also given Jack a chance. Currently eighth fastest wheelchair racer in the UK, Jack has a quicker under-16 time than David Weir at that age. Tributes to his grit have come through the honour of a Children of Courage award and being made an ambassador for the Brittle Bone Society (BBS).
To the modest Jack the news of being nominated was stunning.
“I got a call from my Mum and she said to me that a nurse from the hospital where I was when I had broken bones put in a nomination for me and it got accepted,” he said.
“Then word got around and a lot of MPs from Scotland were voting for me because they knew who I was, it became really really bizarre and out of this world. So there were a lot of nominations: the maxiumum number you could have, I had, which was quite surreal. Then I got through to the last few people.”
But then a Lloyds TSB nomination letter arrived with a rejection and no explanation. They had turned him down. It was even more surprising given that Jack was appearing in the Olympic brochure.
The Royal Kingston cultural programme dedicates a page to the ‘Wheels of Fortune’ Jack and his ‘never say never’ attitude. Penny Binstead had seen it:
“Jack was actually in the Cultural launch booklet advertising him as a potential for the 2016 Olympics,” she said.
“They did a massive print run, it went into 60,000 homes in Kingston borough but he did not get picked to carry the torch.”
Yet it’s been hard for Jack not to take rejection personally. When, back in 2009, two applications for sponsorship were turned down, it was a donation from the charity Generations that helped Jack to carry on. Graham Binstead said:
“At only 12 years old Jack took it to heart, thinking they didn’t feel he was worth backing, which left him at a low point. When he heard of Generations’ kind donation Jack was absolutely delighted and it straight away put him back on track knowing someone believed in him.”
Only three years later, Jack feels he would benefit from an explanation from Lloyds TSB about why he was not selected.
“I am just hoping in the back of my mind that the reason that I didn’t get it was a fair reason as to why, and that they didn’t just decide they didn’t want me for whatever reason they could think of,” Jack said.
Especially so given that LOCOG has fallen over 1,000 places short of its goal to allocate 50% of torchbearer places to young people.
For the 2016 Paralympics, Jack, 16 in September, will need sponsorship to train and compete:
“Obviously it’s a very expensive sport so being in the torch relay would have got me recognition with a possible chance of sponsorship,” Jack said.
“Travelling to competitions is expensive, as is equipment. Chairs are all custom-built, taking into account the size and weight of athletes, with seating positions accurately measured to ensure they are stream-lined.
“Our tyres puncture easily and we are going through gloves pretty quick, they are a lot of money and they last only a few months,” he said.
No wonder with all the hard work this year, training five times a week as well as GCSEs.
Jack’s school photograph, pictured the racer alongside the Chair of LOCOG, Seb Coe. It was taken last April 2011, during a school visit by the former Olympian runner.
“I’m thrilled to have visited Chessington Community College today and seen for myself how inspired its students are by the London 2012 Games,” Coe was reported as saying.
“Our vision has always been to use the power of the Games to inspire change and this school is making this a reality. Meeting some of the students today has shown me how they are making the most of the London 2012 Games coming to London in under 500 days time.”
For Jack ‘inspire’ misses the mark, when the reality is of course that Jack and his family were flying out of Kingston on relay day in order to escape the bunting and flag waving.