Wheelchair campaigner's long roll to London Olympics

Mon Apr 2, 2012 9:53am EDT
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By Aleksandar Vasovic

MALI POZAREVAC, Serbia (Reuters) - Left without the use of both legs after a car struck him in 1996, Mile Stojkoski turned to sport as his rehabilitation -- table-tennis, target-shooting, kayaking, gymnastics, swimming.

But the former administrative clerk's signature discipline became his long-distance wheelchair "marathons" which he undertakes to raise awareness about the plight of disabled people in the Balkans, where they are marginalized and often stigmatized.

If all goes to plan Stojkoski will roll into London on July 27th for the opening of the Olympic Games, at the end of a 3,500 km (2,175 miles) trip by wheelchair from his native Macedonia.

"At first I was in shock and angry," he said of the day he was confined to a wheelchair. "But then I realized I had to do something to improve the situation."

This is the 46-year-old's 10th long-distance wheelchair journey, although he has never officially raced.

Stojkoski and his support team of two will travel through 15 European countries -- Macedonia, Serbia, Hungary, Slovakia, Austria, Croatia, Slovenia, Italy, Switzerland, Germany, Netherlands, Belgium, Luxembourg, France and Britain.

"I became interested in this because it's a combination of strength, stamina and psychological persistence," he told Reuters this week during a brief highway stop in Serbia.

Stojkoski, who has a wife and a daughter, has travelled to the Olympics before.   Continued...

Macedonian paraplegic athlete Mile Stojkoski pushes himself on a highway, escorted by Serbian bikers, during a marathon from his native town of Krusevo to the London Olympics, in Belgrade March 28, 2012. REUTERS/Marko Djurica