First there were the Olympics, a heady fortnight of a whirlwind of sport. Then there was a lull, a sense that something was missing. And then came the Paralympics: determined, gutsy and all guns blazing. I’ve followed Parlaympic sport as long as I’ve followed Olympic sport since that summer of promise back in 1992*, going from having to hunt to find it lurking for twenty minutes on a Sunday afternoon during Grandstand through to the wall to wall coverage Channel 4’s been providing this time. It feels a little weird that for these games everyone suddenly seems to be talking about the Paralympics because, to me, they’ve always been at least as important as the Olympics. I just can’t believe it’s all over tomorrow – what on earth am I going to do now I can’t obsessively press F5 on the text updates?!
Yesterday I was lucky enough to score a day pass to the ExCeL centre which covered wheelchair fencing, sitting volleyball, boccia and table tennis. After a slightly aborted start which involved not paying attention on the DLR and totally overshooting my stop, I arrived in time for the 5/6 and 7/8 placing matches in the women’s team wheelchair fencing. Wheelchair fencing, people, is brutal. Amazing, though, utterly amazing and more than made up for not getting tickets to the Olympic fencing. Having watched Russia casually wipe the floor with Ukraine and GB lose to France, I wandered over to the sitting volleyball whereupon I balked at the queue and headed up to catch the BC1 and BC3 boccia** semi-finals which included David Smith cruising into the final with a comfortable win over the Norwegian player. From there it was to the table tennis and the women’s 1-3 and men’s not 1-3 finals with GB playing in both bronze medal matches to watch GB comprehensively beat Germany then celebrate so hard they knocked over the barriers around the table, beautiful. The women’s team later also got bronze over Italy but by that stage I’d headed back down to the wheelchair fencing to watch the gold medal match between China and Hungary. China won and I got to see a medal ceremony.
Going to the Olympics was something special, going to the Paralympics was something more so. I can’t quite put it into words. I guess it just goes to show that anything, and I mean anything, is possible.
*My interest in Paralympic sport stemmed from someone I knew through church being on the swim team for Barcelona ’92. She’s had a pretty glittering sporting career…