Monday, 3 September 2012

Paralympics: Adjectives fail me

Had another two amazing days at the Paralympics, and frankly I'm running out of adjectives: amazing, astounding, inspiring, moving. It's impossible to forget, when you're watching these events, that every single competitor is already a winner with a powerful back-story. On Saturday I spent several hours cheering on the athletics action in the Olympic Stadium from the press stand, right on the finish line. This included Ireland's Jason Smyth (above), who smashed a world record to win a gold medal in the 100m. In the mix-zone after he commented that his wife would have never let him in the bedroom that night without a gold medal around his neck!

Later I saw South African legend Oscar Pistorius break a world record in his 200m heat, then was amazed to see what a nice man he is in the mix zone, as he patiently chatted to journalists for nearly 90 minutes while his minders tried to get him to move along. He even stopped to shake hands with me and pose for photos for the photographer I was standing with (like an idiot, I didn't snap my own pic). He talked generously about his sponsors, supporters, family, spectators, and was genuinely moved by the attention heaped on him, as well as the unexpected record. So reports about his little rant on Sunday (after losing the final) should be taken with a grain of salt: they were spoken in personal frustration in the heat of the moment, and he has apologised in a way that is genuinely classy.

On Sunday I attended the Britain-Morocco sitting volleyball match (my Instagram pic is at right) - another overwhelming display of tenacity and talent. These guys are as tough as the Olympics volleyball and beach volleyball players I watched just a few weeks ago. This is a seriously gripping spectator sport too. Afterwards I watched two rounds of powerlifting - more emotion! The biggest cheer was reserved for Chinese lifter Liu Lei, who won gold with a Paralympic record, then came back for a fourth lift just to set a new world record as well. Amazing, astounding, inspiring, moving.

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