By Roger Childs
These Games are a great spectacle and all the competitors deserve a medal just for what they are achieving. It is amazing to see participants –
- swimming without arms, or legs
- cycling with one leg or one arm
- long jumping and running with paddles instead of legs
- throwing the discus and shot putt from wheelchairs
- playing table tennis with the paddle in their teeth
- going flat out round the track in wheelchairs
- holding the arrow steady with the mouth in archery.
Then there are the blind athletes who ride tandem with a pilot, or run on the track with a guide “attached”. There are over 100 categories of impairment across more than a dozen sports. Many track athletes may not appear to have a disability, however they can’t compete without one. Danielle Aitcheson, for example, New Zealand’s speedy silver medalist in the 200m T35, has cerebral palsy.
Whatever their impairment, they are all inspirational.
Kiwi garner the medals
New Zealand’s Sophie Pascoe, the country’s most successful Paralympian ever, has added a gold in the 100m freestyle to the silver and bronze she has already won in Tokyo to take her career total to 18. There have been four medals in the pool and the others have been in track and field. William Stedman won two within 24 hours and Lisa Adams, brother of NBA super star Steve Adams, emulated her sister Valerie in winning a shot put gold.
There will definitely be more Kiwi more medals to come, but being on the podium is not the most important element in the Paralympics.
Participation first, competition second.
We enjoy watching all the competitors finishing, especially as despite the many classifications of impairment, inevitably some athletes in each grouping will be disadvantaged. However the main achievement for all participants is just being there. Anything more than this, such as qualifying for finals and picking up medals, is a bonus.
The spectacle of the Paralympians, who might otherwise have just accepted their physical and or mental disability and lived a quiet, dependent life at home, is the “Yes I can! spirit”. They have triumphed over their impairment and on the world stage against athletes from over 160 nations, including Afghanistan, they are giving of their best. Their effort is very evident in the energy and determination of their performance, the focus and enthusiasm written on their faces, and the satisfaction and pleasure they share with their fellow competitors in being there.
Paralympians of the world, we salute your incredible achievement. You aspire to do the best you can and inspire other to give it a go.