Spirit in Motion

Sports were never my strong suit. At school I was always one of the last to be chosen when teaming up for competitive games. I was terrified of being hit in the face by the football and I never managed to shoot the ball straight. My batting skills, in turn, were appalling.

In my late teens, I briefly took up badminton with my cousin and though we had a lot of fun, neither of us showed much promise as players.

My nine-year-old daughter, in contrast, loves sports, her favourite subject at school were she has embraced all kinds of ball sports, including netball, rounders and cricket. Not only is she an enthusiastic player, she’s good too, having scored several goals at interschool netball matches.

Needless to say, I’m a very proud mother.

Despite my general disinterest in sports, and ignorance thereof, I’ve lately found myself glued to the TV screen, watching the Olympic Games and marvelling at the extraordinary talents, strength and skills on display.

I was ecstatic when the Swedish swimmer Sarah Sjöström won the gold medal in 100m butterfly, and I’m in awe of the American gymnast Simone Biles. I even cheered when the British women’s hockey team reached the final, despite the fact that I hated playing hockey at school.

2016_Summer_Paralympics_logo.svgThe 2016 Olympics will soon close, but the action in Rio is far from over, for on 7 September, begins the 2016 Paralympic Games, an 11-day sporting competition featuring 4,350 disabled athletes from 176 different countries.

The first official Paralympic Games were held in Rome in 1960, but its spiritual birthplace lies in the British village of Stoke Mandeville.

In 1948, a German-born doctor, Ludwig Guttman of Stoke Mandeville Hospital, organised a one-day sports competition for disabled British war veterans, to coincide with the opening of the 1948 Summer Olympics in London.

Four years later, these veteran games were held again at the same location and this time, Dutch veterans also took part, making it the first international competition for disabled athletes.

The Paralympic Games have come a long way since and at the 2012 London Paralympics athletes competed in sold-out stadiums, making it the largest, most successful Paralympic Games in history.

Despite these advances, Paralympians continue to fight for equal treatment with non-disabled Olympians, and there’s a large funding gap between the Olympic and Paralympic Games.

The upcoming Paralympic Games in Rio have already suffered three rounds of funding cuts and only a few days ago the International Paralympic Committee (IPC) held crisis talks over Rio’s failure to hand over travel grants to competing countries, without which smaller countries may not be able to send their athletes to Rio.

Whether Rio will be able to live up to the amazing precedent set by the 2012 London Paralympic Games remains to be seen. Even so, what matters most are the athletes themselves of course, and there are some fantastic talents to look out for as the Games begin next month. Here are just a few of them:

Unknown-1Johanna Benson, a short distance runner from Namibia who made history at the 2012 Paralympic Games by becoming the first Namibian ever to win a gold medal at any Olympic event.

 

 

UnknownTerezinha Guilhermina from Brazil, who broke the world record for the 100m race at the 2012 London Paralympics, where she won two gold medals.

She’s known as the fastest blind woman in the world and earlier this year Usain Bolt, the Jamaican sprinter with a series of gold medals under his belt, served as her running guide at an athletics event in Rio.

British swimmer Ellie Simmonds won two gold medals at the 2008 Paralympics in 24328094Beijing,at the tender age of 13.

Four years later, she won another two gold medals at the London Games while setting a new world record in the 400m freestyle.

 

Oliver HyndJoining Simmonds at Rio is fellow British swimmer Ollie Hynd who made his Paralympic debut at the 2012 Games where he won a bronze, silver and gold medal.

Yu Chui Yee, a wheelchair fencer from Hong Kong who won double gold at London 2012. She first participated in the 2004 Paralympic Games in Athens where she became the first wheelchair fencer to win gold in both the individual and team events.

150330115011368_chui+yee+yu

There are so many more exceptional talents to watch of course, but don’t take my word for it. Watch them for yourselves.

And If I haven’t yet managed to convince you, have a look at Channel 4’s promotional trailer for the Games. It rocks.

2 thoughts on “Spirit in Motion

  1. daphneradenhurst August 19, 2016 / 2:57 pm

    I’ve enjoyed watching the Rio Olympics but I shall certainly watch these.

    Like

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