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Dimitri's Story

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To mark our 30th anniversary, we’re releasing 30 stories from wheelchair users across our history.

This ambitious and historic project will result in stories being archived as part of the The British Library Sound Archives ensuring that the life experiences of wheelchair users today are captured forever. With thanks to the National Lottery Heritage Fund and The British Library for their support.

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“I don't want to be viewed as special. I don't want to be viewed as different. I don't want to be viewed as you know, someone that is pitied or needs help. I just want to be a completely normal person.

"With my closest friends because of that attitude I've had that kind of open and understanding interactions with them.

'You know I've achieved that and I literally don't want anything else.”

This Summer Dimitri won four medals for Team GB at the Tokyo 2020 Paralympics.

Through this interview, taken before the Games, we got behind the fencing mask and find it’s not just medals but solid relationships and hard won independence that are most precious to Dimitri. 

A car accident at the age of two led to Dimitri retaining use of everything above the middle of his spine.

In his interview, he touches on this and compares the accessibility of other cities such as Rio, Tokyo and Hong Kong with London. 

He credits his appreciation of relationships to primary school experiences, when his wheelchair seemed an obstacle to friendships.

Gaining confidence at secondary school, he learned a little more about people.

“There are just some people who are just more nourishing to be around.

"From that it taught me about how I wanted to be and what I wanted to be like, and I strive to make myself a better person from that - being more understanding; being more open minded; being more patient...

"And I found that by doing this I was able to choose people who I aspire to be like and learn from them a lot and honestly forged some of the best friendships I've ever had.”

Check out some highlights from Dimitri's interview below...

Dimitri looks to the side while travelling down the street in his manual wheelchair

Motivation - Listen to a clip here

"I've experienced demotivation and I find the one thing that gets me through is a process of identifying what the problem is.

"So when, for example, a couple years ago, I was at uni and I was trying to train and do everything all at once, feeling that it was a bit overwhelming - not being able to do things as 100% as I want to.

"So you know, I really believe that it's if it's important to you, if it's what you need to do, you want to do, then you need to bring you 100% into it.

"I had to sit down with myself after trying to do both for a year and a bit, and honestly ask myself, what is it that I wanted to do 'cause I knew I had to give up one of them."

Challenges - Listen to a clip here

"I think for me, and I appreciate that not everybody is going to hold the same view as we on this, but I realised the importance that no matter what kind of situation you're in, you are going to have differences between people.

"People are going to be different, but it doesn't make you different at the same time." 

Dimitri looks at the camera while in his manual wheelchair

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Transport - Listen to a clip here

"I've had a lot of international experience and a lot of international travel seeing how different kind of like systems operate has really been quite extraordinary.

"So you know where I went to Rio, for example, I was astounded by how accessible everything was, you know, I wasn't expecting kind of like the levels of accessibility that that we experienced there and this is purely coming from living in London, which is considered to be one of the biggest cities in the world.

"But you know all the tube stations were accessible. All the tourist sites were fully accessible.

"I never thought that I'd be able to get, you know, right up to the base of the Christ the Redeemer statue in Rio. But you know, I did it.

"It was just an incredible experience and they really put effort into making sure that anyone and everyone could get to it."

Using a wheelchair - Listen to a clip here

“Especially when I was in secondary school, where I had to push around quite a lot. 

"It was quite a big school, so I'd have to move sometimes from one end of it to the other and up ramps and slopes and things.

"It was quite tiring to do, it was it was very physically demanding, but kind of that made me realise the importance of physical endurance and physical resilience and fitness.

"And then going from that old clunky tank to the new Whizz-Kidz also just made me realise and appreciate the importance of streamlining everything.

"So how to make things as easy as possible, how to try and make the best out of each situation."

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