Belfast Telegraph

Friday 26 December 2014

Blyth completes Kilimanjaro feat

Andy Blyth (right)
Andy Blyth (right)

Former England A centre Andy Blyth has reached the summit of Mount Kilimanjaro, 11 years after fearing he would be paralysed for life.

Blyth joined Rugby Players' Association chairman David Barnes and former England hooker Mark Regan on the AXAWealth Climb to raise £100,000 for injured players and wounded soldiers.

"What Andy has done is inspirational and nothing short of remarkable," said RPA chief executive Damian Hopley.

Blyth began his career as a tough-tackling centre at Newcastle before moving on to Northampton and then Sale, each move designed to enhance his prospects of adding a Test cap to his six England A appearances.

Those aspirations were crushed on March 12, 2000. Less than a minute into a game against Saracens, Blyth tackled Thierry Lacroix before being cleaned out by the opposition pack as he tried to compete for the ball.

It is a situation that happens numerous times in every game but, on this occasion, Blyth dislocated the third disc in his back. As it moved it nipped his spinal chord.

Blyth was unable to control anything below his shoulders. At that moment he was a tetraplegic. It transpired Blyth had been a whisker away from severing his spinal chord.

"That's lights out. That's a Christopher Reeve job," Blyth once said.

Twelve weeks later Blyth made his first movements. A year on he was gingerly taking some steps with the aid of crutches. Blyth is still unsteady on his feet but he accepted the challenge of climbing Kilimanjaro. He tumbled frequently on the way up but, against all odds, he made it to the summit.

The AXA Wealth Climb is raising funds for Help for Heroes, the Rugby Football Union's Injured Players Foundation and the RPA Benevolent Fund.

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