A person, born with a spinal cord injury and then doesn´t finish high school is most likely sentenced to live a life marginalized, depending on goverment support.
My story is one of the exceptions to that statistic.
I was born in Ljungby, Sweden, in 1971. Unfortunately and unexpectedly my body was marked with a growing hemangioma (not malignant) on my back as well as inside my spinal cord. The doctors was hoping that the hemangioma seen on my back would be my only problem and that it would fade away in due time as it normally does. But when my legs lost movement at the young age of three months the doctors realized the vastness of my problem and decided on immediate surgury trying to save as many functions possible left in my body. My incomplete paraplegia th7 was now a fact.
I grew up in Växjö during the 70s and 80s with my parents and two siblings. My parents didn´t treat me any different from my siblings, despite my disability. There was expectations and demands being put forward on me with the sole purpose of fueling my independecy and ability to take responsibility. At the same time I was given lots of freedom to, through own experiences, accumulate self confidence physically as well as mentally. In my upbringing, I was provided opportunity to try many different sports and hobbies and my participation in family activities was always a given.
By not treating me different and allowing me to get perspectives and skills from my tries and errors, I got the tools I needed to be able to create my own happiness in life. That counts for everyone you might say but I will state that the risk of special treatment for children with disabilities is extremely high. Parents focusing on making their child happy to compensate for the misfortune the was given their child and in the same process failing to teach the child important fundamentals in life.
|As a child, I was integrated in almost everything circumstance with able body children, which was not common in the 70´s. Also in those days wheel-chairs for children didn´t exist. Instead I kept ”going” with help of other quite extraodinary constructions until one day in 1981 Karsten Inde brought back from the US, a small size wheelchair made out of aluminum. It was a sport model and the name of the brand was ”Stainless racer” – the hottest set of wheels ever.
Everything changed for the better in 1993 when a bill in Sweden was passed that guranteed support for people with disability to have equal opportunity in life, on their own terms. Before this law passed it was a litte bit like each one for him self. The habilitation in Sweden was underdeveloped and poor. In this rather harsh enviroment in the late 70´s, a non-profit association called ”Rekryteringsgruppen” took form.
Initally a group of people was seeking goverment funding trying to recruit individuals who could develope in to be handicap-sport top level athletes by using a role model principle. Not many of participants ended up becoming competitive top athletes but there was enormous progress to be seen as far as increased self-confidence and independency on the individuals participating. A result which inspired the initators to continue move forward with their strategy but with new objective.
Active rehabilitation using sport as instrument and experienced knowledge as educator was formed. Powerful and effective. Independence was enhanced and the attitude of anything is possible no matter the challenge became the core value. Handling staircases going both up and down, riding the Transibirian railway, climbing moutnains, etc – NOTHING WAS TO BE IMPOSSIBLE. New wheelchair skills was invented and the time for creating the lightest and most technically efficient designed wheelchair had arrived.
|There was freedom in this mindset which had a protion of anarch punk-spirit attached as a result of the disappointment we felt of the lack of engagement from society in order to change our alienation. We took matters in our own hands askingin not for permission. A litte fxxk you to conventions and order if you will. What we didn´t realise at the time was that the body was not designed to use a wheelchair but for walking. All this boundless activation gave us a hang-over 20 years later when worn-out shoulders and other wear damages showed up knocking on the door. Problem that could have been avoided if we had realised that we every now and then actually need som help if we are bodies are going to sustain.
As a youth I very much focused on my interest for music. I had been successful in several sports and shown some notable talent but my love for music was larger and here I found my emotional outlet. Growing up with a disability you are forced to devolope patience and emotional control to be able to endure existential issues, painful hospital treatment and the alienation that comes with mobility loss. You can´t hide and no one really want´s to share your pain. Even people that love you would rather put all their energy in trying to make you happy than to share your pain because it hurts them so much seeing you suffer.
In order to cope with these emotions, there is a big risk that you put them ”on ice” in a safety box with 47 000 locks on to deal with later. But turning off, denying if you will, the bad emotions you don´t want, effects the feelings you do want to have by belittleing them. My music was therefore an important valve for all my emotions and it helped me from turning numb. It all reached a point in the late 80´s when my band had to split up for various reasons and I had difficulties putting together a new band to play in and at the same time I found my self hanging out more and more in the pool room.
Shooting pool was my side activity, totally in line with my rock star image and was initially introduces to my by my father who took me to se the motion picture ”The Color of Money” with Paul Newman and Tom Cruise.
Purely coincidental the owner of the local pool room in Växjö at this time was, none other than Mr Jörgen Sandman. One of the most important political figures the billiard sport has ever had who played a huge part in politically structure this sport not only in Europé but all over the world. Much thanks to him this sport became a member in the IOC (International Olympic Comittee) and he served as president in the WCBS (World Confederation of Billiard Sport) for almost 20 years. We became good friends and hi was very instrumental in my progress as a pool player.
Our collaboration and the fact that Jörgen once a year was able to attract top players from around the world to enter his tournament ”Challenge Cup” in ”little” Växjö which gave me the opportunity to see the game att its best in real life, opened my eyes for all the beauty this nerve-wrecking, precision-demanding and creative solution-demanding sport has to offer. In other words – I WAS HOOKED!
Rapidly my pool playing more or less started to take over my life. Studies, relations, I would say everything became suffering due to my sport interest. When my mentor, Jörgen, moved abroad I had to find new nourishment for my pool apitite and decided to leave Växjö for Stockholm to get the utmost possibilities of developing my game. Together with two friends, I headed for Stockholm where I had managed to get a rental lease of an apartment on the south side, down town.
I was facing two financial obsticles to fulfil my pool needs, practise and tournament expenses. I contacted the owners of the best pool room and suggested them to let me be in charge junior trainings and start up beginners courses for their customers and in return letting me play for free and to keep the fees from the courses. They realised the value over all value in my offer and said yes. Then I reached out to the major distributor of Pool articles in Sweden and suggested a sponsor deal which entailed that if I were to be a retailor and did administrational work for them, instead of giving me the sales profit and salary, they could pick up my travel bills. Fortunately they agreed and I was now ready go all in with my pool ambitions.
My international debut as a competitor was a success by winning the first official European Championship in wheelchair ever held. This took place 1993, in Berlin. Following year I managed to win the unofficial World Championship in the USA, beating thier ”main stick” Aaron Aragon twice in the same tournament including the final. I looked more or less unstoppable in the wheelchair division up until 2002, when the very talanted Jouni Tähti from Finland enters the pool circuit and since that day most of the gold medals in the EC and WC has come into our common possesion.
In 2003 I became official World Champion in Christchurch New Zeeland and I have after that managed to win that title another historical five times. Worth mentioning is that event though there are great disadvantages shooting pool from a seated position, I have developed a game quality equal to able body players when I´m in gear by creating new techniques and using different patterns and have in individual matches beaten many of the top pros. However your top level is not as interesting as keeping your lowest level high if you want to be a part of the able body world elite and because of my circomstanses this is something I have so far found difficulty in producing. My highest achievemnt playing able body players is a 3rd place in the Swedish Championship.
|Over the years I have found different ways of making a living out of pool by being an entrepreneur. Within the framework of education and entertainment I have created programs and concepts which has attracted companies and private persons to invested money in. Founded, managed, bought and sold companys in different forms. The single most successful concept I refined was an activity for companys I delivered in my pool rooms. It was a two hour experience concisting of a short instruction in how to shoot pool, followed by a team tournament and ending with a trick shot exhibition. Trick shots is an artform where you make spectacular things on the pool table which appears like magic. This is usually done together with a stand-up jargon and over a 15 year period I delivered more than 2500 of these.
|My life took a new turn when I became a father. Doing trick shots in the evenings was unsustainable and instead I persued new idéas of concepts enhancing corporate cultures using sport psychology tools and strategies. When my second child is born we leave Stockholm for Malmö which is in the south of Sweden, to buy a house. This is where my biological family lives aswell. I sold my part in the pool rooms and started a new company focusing on my new concepts.
|Apart from my work, I have started to engage more and more in trying to help people with disability. This urge of making a difference has grown on me originating from my gratitude for all the fortune I was given that made my life possible. I put togheter a project that aims to increase employment possibilities for people in wheelchair focusing on empowerment instead of surroundings and try to get goverment funding to turn it into action. Applying for goverment funding is given better chanse if you have a partner with a trackrecord of doing so which led me to make contact with the largest sport association in Sweden - FIFH. At the time, FIFH had just recieved funding for another project called ”Wheelchair academy”, focusing more on how to handle life if you get dependent using a wheelchair and saw me as the perfect fit for leading that project which I accepted.
”Wheelchair academy” became a success and over a hundred individuals were trained to increase their independece by learning skills connected to the wheelchair. Energy saving fundamental technics, how to handle obstacles, proper diet in sync with changed motabilisim, wellness and how to prevent pressure wounds were the main subjects all with an emphasis on creating the right mindset – empowerment. Civics, norm criticism and a upgrading of self image was subtledly lapped in to impact and strengthen.
The progress these individuals made was astonishing. Before I know it the assistive devices centres are knocking on my door wanting to gain this knowledge to strengthen their business role. I structure a prescriber education course that was delivered in almost every part of Skåne during the project period. Down this road, I get more and more involved in different initiatives trying to improve conditions for people with disabilities in society.
My experienced based knowledge is working as a tool to show the true outcome of the theoretical intention from society and it tells where there is improvment to be made in order to reach the goal of the intention. Since my knowledge covers many different areas, I now find myself working together with a variety of other resorses all aiming for the same goal.
The way I´ve chosen to live my life differs a lot from others in my situation and I have made thorough research in what was the most important conditions that made my life possible. In other words – what factors and mechanisms descides the level of selfasteem, courage and decisiveness to follow ones dreams for a person who is born into a world with no given success role and without guidence from society to be one. And more importantly, how can we translate this knowledge to inspire others to change.Raising awareness is the key to distribute value which in it self is the most important factor in sustainable change. Depending on the intention, I work alone or togheter with competenses from expert medicine, univerities or other disability organisations doing lectures, seminars, workshop or courses trying to make a difference.
I hope that ten years from now I will be able to look back and see that my comittment trying to change things for the better, coming from the gratitude i feel for the conditions I was given, also has been beneficial for others to be a success story as well.
Then of course, I also wanna win my 7th World Champion title. ;)