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I was nervous before the Olympics. I knew a huge amount of preparation had gone into making the Olympics a success, but dreaded an unforeseen setback marring my country’s moment on the world stage. Call it stage fright if you like. Well, the brilliant efforts of thousands did me proud. As a Brit overseas, the Olympics was not only a relief, but an event that inspired real pride in what we’d achieved and the welcome we’d given the world.
So, I’m looking forward to the sporting excellence of the Paralympics with a lighter heart, simply looking forward to the sporting spectacle and to being inspired by some of the world’s best competitors.
After all, that’s primarily what Paralympians are. They are the best of the best, competitors and athletes. Just as with Olympians, they are people whose physical prowess I can only dream of.
That might sound odd if you think of the Paralympics only in the context of the disabilities they compete with. Aren’t these people to be pitied?
True, many have overcome great adversity to get where they are today. Some of the stories are moving, stories of tragedy overcome against the odds. But I refuse to pity the people that have overcome the disadvantages that life has given them. I prefer to see them as role models. If they can overcome what they have, to get where they are, surely that offers me inspiration to overcome what small obstacles I have in life? To aspire to achieve even a fraction in my life of what they’ve achieved?
Because the last thing most Paralympians will be looking for is pity. Oscar Pistorius, who famously competed in the Olympics this year as a double amputee on his blades, said that pity is the last reaction he wants. What they want is support, encouragement and the respect they are due as competitors. Britain’s own Tanni Grey-Thompson talks about London 2012 as a chance for people to get a better understanding of disabled sport.
There’s one story which I draw particular inspiration from. Seven years ago, on the seventh of July 2005, Martine Wright lost three quarters of her blood and both her legs in a terrorist attack the day after London won the right to host the 2012 Olympics and Paralympics. It was a terrible setback to an ordinary life, but she addressed it in an extraordinary way. Seven years on, she’s overcome that life-changing injury to compete in the Paralympics, for Great Britain’s sitting volleyball team. Forget pity, focus on the inspiration provided by someone able to overcome the worst life can throw at you and reach the heights of world sport. I see Martine Wright as an inspiration, not a human interest story in the media. She’s given many strength and inspiration through her example.
So let’s support the Paralympians for what they are – role models and examples of the strength of humanity. The real SuperHumans