Do you know what I am talking about?
The opening ceremony of a home Paralympic Games, that is what I am talking, and I am talking about it here because I think, as a motivational tool for an athlete, it is one of the biggest. You see, any and every opening ceremony is special, and should be attended as an athlete (if it does not interfere with the preparation process of your competition, of course); but at a home games, when you walk out from under the stands and the crowd goes crazy, is going crazy for you, nothing beats the euphoria that emanates from your chest out to your limbs and out through your skin. In other words, you truly are part of the crowds energy and excitement.
I didn't completely understand the magic of the Opening Ceremony until my first Paralympics in Atlanta, in 1996 (geez that seems like a few lifetimes ago now). I remember feeling apprehensive, but excited at what to expect. I don't really have clear memories of that night, more feelings and colours. When I think of the Atlanta Paralympic Games opening ceremony I think darkness with flashes of light, cheering in the background, the red of the athletics race track, the hum of voices from my fellow Paralympians, and the feeling of anticipation for the weeks ahead. I also remember feeling slightly disconnected from the experience - as though I was dreaming the whole event. I didn't really have anyone to look for in the crowd; Australia was one of the first teams out and I felt a little lost in the whole cacophony of sound and light.
I looked forward to the Sydney opening ceremony more. The main reason being - it was being held in my home nation, home city, and home area (I was raised just down the road from where it was held). There was a comfort there, a knowledge that most of the crowd would be Australian and that they were behind you 100%. It also meant that you would have quite a few people in the crowd who knew you and were cheering for you. I remember waiting in the tunnel under the stands, peaking out and seeing a glimpse of the orange lights, the colourful streamers, the crowd cheering and waving flags. Then, walking out into the stadium, the cheering growing louder, the announcement - "Australia" - the team almost jogging out in excitement, smiles plastered across faces, both in the team and the crowds. The walk around the stadium was like walking on clouds; I spotted my parents and waved like mad, yelling their names. Every now and then, groups of Aussie team mates stopping to get group photo's; the taste of victory already on our tongues (you see we were victorious already, because we were at the Paralympics in our home nation).
It truly was a once in a lifetime experience - as an athlete. Yet, here I am again, living in a country that is about to host the Paralympic Games, I never dreamed that this would happen again. And guess what? I am feeling inspired again, I am feeling the drive build in me again, that energy that curls up from your stomach, enticing you to extreme achievement over physical limitations (whether you are disabled or able bodied). I am thinking of taking up rowing and seeing where that leads. Another sport, perhaps another Paralympics in the future; can you see that once you have a taste for success it drives you to want more, to push yourself, to excel on your own terms.
Do you have a once in a life time experience that keeps on pulling you back to those feelings of achievement and excitement? How do you go after capturing that feeling again?
"Your Determination is Limitless"
- Elizabeth Wright