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Royal Central interviews Prince Harry’s youngest Invictus fan

By now everyone is aware of the brilliant feat Prince Harry and The Invictus Games pulled off last week. There were so many incredible photos from the games that made one pause and think, what an amazing event for these heroes and heroines.

There was one photo that struck me though, and I wanted to find out more about Rio Woolf, who met Prince Harry.

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Rio is a fun-loving 6-year-old – he’s also an amputee with a passion for the Paralympics. He was born with a one-in-a-million bone deficiency in his lower right leg – Tibial Aplasia (no tibia, knee or ankle joint), necessitating a through-knee amputation at 14 months. He was fitted with his first prosthetic leg at 17 months and took his first steps on his first “ampuversary” at the age of two years, two months.

He always tried to be as active as he could but was held back by his heavy, rigid NHS (National Health Service) prosthetic leg until the London 2012 Paralympics changed his life!

I had the chance to interview Rio and his mother, Juliette Woolf.

Rio you were able to attend the Invictus Games and meet Prince Harry. What was it like to meet him?

It was awesome! Prince Harry was very nice – I’m so happy I met him!

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Can you tell our readers what you both talked about?

Prince Harry asked me about my special leg – he liked the picture of Blu from the “Rio” movie and the Rio 2016 logo.

Did you enjoy the games? What was your favourite event that you watched?

Yes, it was awesome! I liked watching the running on TV and the wheelchair basketball at the Copper Box.

Mrs Woolf can you tell us a bit more about Rio and how he had the chance to go to the Invictus Games?

Rio loves sport – athletics (especially running), swimming, football, tennis, wheelchair basketball and wheelchair dancing – you name it, he’ll try it! He had been feeling very down before the London 2012 Paralympics as he was struggling to keep up with his friends, but after we took him to the last night of the athletics he was so inspired by “the people with special legs running” that he decided to take up sport again and announced his ambition to become a Paralympian – he wants to be a blade runner like his heroes Jonnie Peacock (ParalympicsGB) and Alan Oliveira (his Brazilian Paralympics idol) and is aiming for the 2024 Games.

Rio loves going to para-sport events – both as a spectator and to participate – so we have taken him to as many events as we can all over the country over the past two years.

I knew about the Warrior Games in the US and was very interested to hear back in the Spring that Prince Harry was launching the Invictus Games here in the UK – I knew it was something Rio would really enjoy, being a para-sport event with lots of incredible amputee athletes, so I booked our tickets as soon as they went on sale.

We went to the Wheelchair Basketball event where we watched our victorious British team beat the US! Rio was in his element, joking around with the wounded warriors and comparing “special legs” – it was so inspiring to see these courageous men and women embracing the healing power of sport to live life to the full.

The BBC asked to do some filming with us and although my interview was cut (when I told him, Rio said “That’s because you’re not going to be a Paralympian like me!”),

After we finished filming, the BBC Producer spotted Prince Harry on the other side of the basketball court and asked Rio if he wanted to meet him – Rio shouted “Yes!” and grabbed the Producer’s hand, running all the way around the upper level and down the stairs to get to him as he was being whisked off by his team, but he was so generous with his time for Rio, despite a busy schedule, stopping for five minutes to chat with him and showing a great interest in Rio’s prosthetic leg, especially the designs on his socket – the logos from the ‘Rio’ movie and Rio 2016.

I heard Rio you want to be in the 2024 Paralympics? what event do you think you will bring home the gold in?

Yes, I want to run in the 100m, and I’m going to get a gold medal!

To learn more about Rio and his quest for gold visit: www.run-rio-run.co.uk; or follow Rio on www.facebook.com/RioWoolf and Twitter @BladeBoyRio

Photo Credit: Juliette Woolf 2014

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