This blog post is a little late . . . you see it's been about two weeks since the Paralympics finished and I am only now getting to a summary of my thoughts and impressions of the greatest sporting event in the world (yep, you read right, THE greatest sporting event . . . the Olympics comes a close second, hehe).
(My reason for being a little behind in my blogging duties? I have recently had some terrible news from my family in Australia which rocked me to the core. One of the most wonderful ladies in the world and someone who has so positively influenced my life, my Auntie, is in a bad way healthwise. Christmas this year will probably be the last Christmas spent with her. It is hard, but I am cherishing the time that is left that I can talk to her. Please send happy, positive thoughts to Australia!!)
SO, the Paralympics . . . what can I say! Amazing, Inspirational, Mind blowing, Immense, Formidable, Crazy, Insane, but most of all Revealing! Revealing a truth about disability, revealing the opposite of all the disabled stereotypes, revealing to the world the Paralympians in all their "Superhuman" glory. For so many people, able bodied and disabled, the Paralympics became an eye opener of possbility - possibility for everyone.
The possibilities have become apparent to me in my school visits. There is one particular story I have to share with you -
I was spending the day at Mt St. Mary's Catholic High School in Leeds; I did a keynote speech and then I ran a workshop four times during the day. My workshop was to address goals, overcoming obstacles, and motivational tools. The very first workshop had a late arrival. It was a young man who had missed the keynote and therefore, walked into the workshop with no idea what was happening or who I was. I actively encouraged him to participate in the activities, but he was resistant, muttering constantly that is was "all a waste of time" and that he "had no goals and that goals were stupid." The teachers sat with him, tried to get him to participate - but he refused. Then it happened, a lightbulb went off in his head - two minutes before the workshop finished. He realised I was a Paralympian. His attitude changed . . . I have never seen a kid finish the activities from my workshop so quickly. He even took and kept the stars I handed out at the end (the stars were for the students to write their powerwords on). He realised I was a Paralympian.
That is the power of the Paralympians, that is the legacy. A respect, an admiration, an esteem has been created for people with disabilities. People (and particularly students) now openly have Paralympians as role models; people with disabilities are being seen as being able to achieve great things in life. It is the self belief, the determination, the purpose, and the focus that Paralympians can model for students and schools. Cause, you know, ask a child if they know who Jonnie Peacock and Ellie Symonds are and their hands reach higher then ever before in their eagerness to discuss these athletes races and triumphs. I don't think you could ask for a better legacy.
There was a quote from someone on some show (my bad for not remembering these things) that hit the nail on the head for what the London Paralympics did - "The Sydney Paralympics made the Paralympians equal, London made them superstar!" DO you agree? I do.
I am so excited that the Paralympics are now underway . . . and I am a little envious as well. Green around the gills. Eaten up with jealousy. You know what I mean right? I feel this way because I remember what it was like to compete in a home games, and the GB Team are getting to experience that right now.
To compete in a Paralympic Games means you are the best in your sport, it is special, astonishing, and confidence building and you never forget what it is like. To compete in a home Paralympic Games is to have a once in a lifetime opportunity to represent your country against other elite athletes with your country right there, behind you, supporting you, cheering, waving flags, clapping, calling your name, generally being with you in every dive, stroke, turn, and finish.
Let me describe to you a moment -
The stands were full, the crowd was already boisterous; flags were rippling and faces were painted in country colours. I sat in the marshaling room. Nervous chatter gushed from my quivering lips. Feeling cold and goose-pimply, I remember rubbing my arms, trying to maintain feeling and limberness. Just before walking out to the pool I managed a glance out of the rooms window into the crowd. There! Just there, close to the front and at the starting end of the pool. My nephew was holding a banner, a white slash through the sea of faces. Upon this banner he had written - "GO Aunty Bess." Stunned momentarily, I felt that feeling I had been waiting for. Here I was, about to swim in front of my family and friends and countrymen in the biggest moment of my career, and there was my nephew, my sweet, brown haired, excitable nephew cheering just for me. He had faith in me, he was proud of me, even before I had walked out and swum my race. A confidence surged through my veins. The adrenaline kicked in forcefully; my shivering stopped, my nervous chattering died; I knew what I had to do."
That moment . . . can you imagine it? This moment was right before I won my silver medal in the 400m Freestyle. I remember every moment of that race, every moment directly before and after. It is emotionally significant to me and I draw on these moments to motivate myself, to remind myself that as long as i do my best my family and friends (and most importantly myself) can be proud of me. Memories are so important, and we can all utilise our past moments to vitalise our futures.
For Team GB it is there home games and it will be filled with many moments that they will never forget, that they will draw on to inspire their future lives. What does this tell us?
We can find inspiration in our own lives if we look hard enough. What have you achieved that further inspires you?
"Your Determination is Limitless"
- Elizabeth Wright