Monday, 19 September 2016

Rio Paralympics

So Rio 2016 has come to an end. Initially, I imagined my thoughts on the Paralympics would be very similar to my thoughts on the Olympics. However, the Paralympic experience for me was completely different. I guess because it is closer to home in the sense that whilst Athletics features in the Olympics it isn’t actually an event I could ever participate in.

It is terrible to say, but I wasn’t inspired by the Paralympics this time. Maybe it isn’t physically possible to be inspired over and over again. The concept of people overcoming adversity and achieving great things in sport isn’t something that is new to me. Don’t get me wrong, there were some amazing performances and acts of courage. They just didn’t feel relevant to me. This could be because we had a very limited number of visually impaired athletes competing, so very little visually impaired sport was televised. We had no Goalball teams, no blind football team, no S11 swimmers, which would be my classification and whilst I know we sent athletes in the Judo, I’m not sure if anyone managed to medal. Apologies if they did, but it must have passed me by. We did grab a handful of medals in the athletics, swimming and cycling from athletes who are mostly partially sighted. It makes me wonder how totally blind young people can aspire to represent their country at a Paralympics if they have no role model to follow. Personally, watching Tracey Hinton in Beijing was my first glimpse of what a totally blind athlete could do on an athletics track and later she became my rival.

Despite not seeing visually impaired sport, I did watch the Paralympics religiously every day and enjoyed it overall. The Channel 4 coverage was cringe worthy at times with stuttering presenters and their lack of knowledge, yet I know Channel 4 tried their best, which is all you can ask. I did surprise myself how much I know about not only Athletics, but other sports too when the presenters gave incorrect facts. It was common to see on social media incorrect classifications and facts too. To be fair the classification system is a tough thing to get your head around. I know the Athletics classes inside out and I’m reasonably familiar with the classifications in other sports. That’s because I’m involved in disability sport. For the general public including my parents, they find it confusing. They asked me what is the difference between a T34 and T54 athlete, as to them they both compete in wheelchairs. Also, in the swimming they were cheering the athletes with amputations because visibly to them they must be more impaired than someone with all four limbs. I noticed that the LEXI guide to classification wasn’t used much, as there was simply no time due to the amount of British performances that needed squeezing in.

The medals just kept on coming. 147 later and as a spectator I was a little bit bored with all of the winning. The medals didn’t feel as special compared to the Olympics especially when some people managed to collect three or four. In future I think they need to reduce the amount of events for certain classifications. It is a bit bizarre that some athletes are able to compete and medal over so many different disciplines. That isn’t possible to do in the Olympics, so it shouldn’t be possible in the Paralympics. I do know in the athletics that they took a fair few 200m races out so some athletes were unable to double up. This process needs to be continued on a class by class basis.

Reading back, this does seem to be quite a negative post. So to end on some positives…

Rio delivered. They got the crowds in and backed their athletes whole heartedly. When Brazil clinched the Bronze in the final swimming event, a relay of some sort, it brought a tear to my eye, as on classification points it shouldn’t have physically been possible. The crowd’s reaction was mind blowing. And I say I got bored of us winning all of the time, but 147 medals for Paralympics GB is an incredible achievement. Only China with a disabled population of a mere 65 million could beat us.

Next up Tokyo 2020. This last four year cycle I didn’t aim to become a Paralympian. Dare I say it, but I would love to be in Tokyo. I wish I didn’t love athletics so much, as I would consider doing a different sport to aid my chances, but the truth is the only sport for me is track and field. To get there as a sprinter would be a tall order. If I’m lucky we may have a relay team by then or I may discover a hidden talent for another event. It is always good to dream.

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