Scot becomes driving force in Romanian para sports

Sally Wood-Lamont (back row, fifth from right) with members of the Romanian Paralympic team
Sally Wood-Lamont (back row, fifth from right) with members of the Romanian Paralympic team
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She grew up in the Highlands and worked for many years as a librarian at Edinburgh University.

Now Scot Sally Wood-Lamont is in Rio de Janeiro cheering on the Romanian Paralympic team, in her role as president of the country’s Paralympic Committee.

Wood-Lamont, who is supporting 12 athletes taking part in sports including para-canoeing, cycling and blind judo, was awarded an MBE in 2002 for her work with young and disabled people. She has lived in Romania since the early 1990s, first travelling to the country to provide aid to university libraries after the fall of Communism in 1989 and settling there in 1994.

“We had a great start with a bronze medal won by our only blind judoka in Romania for whom this is the first Paralympic Games – on his way to the bronze medal he beat the World Champion from Algeria,” she said.

“This year we have the largest Paralympic team in the history of Romania – 12 athletes qualified in six sports. The progress for Romania’s paralympic movement is phenomenal.”

The team is now far larger than the three athletes from Romania who attended the Beijing Paralympics in 2008 or the five who competed in London 2012.

However, unlike in the UK, where there is daily coverage of the event, the Paralympic Games, which finish today, are not normally shown on TV in Romania, so Wood-Lamont has paid for two national TV journalists to attend the event to ensure her athletes get the recognition they deserve.

“We have very few supporters – basically only our team members – and no one from the government has come to the Paralympic Games,” she said. “If we had not paid fully for our two TV ‘Romania 1’ guys to come we would have had no coverage at all in Romania. But they are doing a great job and every day we have interviews and a spot on the main news show.”

Wood-Lamont’s interest in sport began when she attended the 1970 Commonwealth Games in Edinburgh and had volunteered at sports events elsewhere in Scotland.

After her mother passed away and Wood-Lamont, now 67, sold her Edinburgh flat, she was able to use the money to set up the Lamont Centre and Sports Club for young disabled people in the Romanian city of Cluj.

“I decided to try an international competition in the Czech Republic in 2003 with our club’s two best table tennis players and they were beaten so quickly and easily,” she said. “I therefore employed a table tennis trainer and that’s how it all began.”

In 2008, the Romanian authorities asked her to become ‘Chef de Mission’ for the team of three athletes and four staff travelling to China for the Paralympics.

She said: “I asked what I had do as Chef de Mission and I remember I was told, ‘Oh it’s nothing very much – you will learn it all as you go along.’ I did – I learnt it all bit by bit, making every mistake, but I was hooked on Paralympic sport when I came back.”