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A Talk From An Irish Adventurer Helped Inspire Schmidt's Men To Victory

A Talk From An Irish Adventurer Helped Inspire Schmidt's Men To Victory
By Jimmy Rea
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Who doesn't love a good pre-game pep talk? Holywood dines out on these in movies every year, Al Pacino knocked it out of the park in Any Given Sunday. However as the full-time whistle went Saturday evening, confirming Ireland had finally beaten the All Blacks, Irish Adventurer Mark Pollock smiled just a little wider than the rest of us.

40-year-old Mark, who is blind and paralyzed from the waist down, had spoken with the Irish squad before they headed state side where he told his story. Mark, who has previously worked with Irish internationals Johnny Sexton, Rob Kearney and Jamie Heaslip on different charity projects, was only too happy to chat with the Rugby squad. According to the Belfast Telegraph:

I shared my story and it overlapped nicely with what they were about to do with facing the All Blacks.

The line I used was that up to this point in history it was proven to be impossible to find a cure for paralysis but history is filled with accounts of the impossible made possible through human endeavour... the type of human endeavour that took polar explorers to the South Pole 100 years ago, astronauts to the moon 50 years ago and human endeavour that I hope will uncover a cure for paralysis.

"The message I suppose fitted well in that they had never defeated the All Blacks. The message was that if you think like an explorer then you can be the first to make things possible.

"I don't want to overstate it. I gave a talk and if they got something out of it, even in a small way, then that would be fantastic.

"As a supporter of the team it was an absolute privilege to get one minute in that environment which was so professional and perfect for what they did on Saturday night. At the end Rory Best presented me with a signed jersey which meant a lot to me.

"When Ireland beat the All Blacks I was delighted just like everyone else here. What Ireland did was push the boundaries and it confirmed what I believe that what people think is impossible can be made possible through human endeavour.

Mark, who is an avid sports fan, has been blind since he was 22, first losing the sight in his right eye aged five. Pollock was able to indulge his love for sport by winning medals for Northern Ireland with partner Brendan Smyth in the 2002 Commonwealth Rowing Championships. The following year Mark ran a staggering six marathons in seven days while also competing in the North Pole Marathon. In 2010 a freak accident at a friends house, where Mark fell from an upstairs window, he fracturing his skull and breaking his back, resulting in him being paralyzed.


Pollock has gone on since to become an author of the book Making It Happen, which tells the story of how Mark rebuilt his life and became a public speaker and now devotes himself to new research into curing paralysis.


Last year Mark was able to stand on his own unaided for the first time since his accident, thanks to physical therapy program and groundbreaking robotic technology:

Apart from standing I walk in the robotic legs and I have the second intervention which is the electrical stimulation.

The robot is designed in such a way that if I put any effort in, which I can do with the stimulation on, the robot knows to do less dynamically as it is happening.

That's a really important change in the last couple of years. If the robot was just doing everything there would be no progression. As I do more my muscles engage more and the idea over time is that the robot does less and less.

As someone who is paralysed from the stomach down I'm really interested in my legs and I'm interesting in walking. That's my area of focus and the electrical stimulation is good for me combined with the robot.

This November, the Run in the Dark in aid of the Mark Pollock Trust takes place in over 55 cities around the world. All proceeds go to research aimed and finding a cure for a paralysis.



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