Speaking as a couch Olympian I am ready to be enthralled by the Para Olympics just as I was for the previous sporting extravaganza a couple of weeks ago, and surely most people believe that event was a brilliant spectacle. It seems invidious to this individual to mark out Para Olympians and Para Athletes in general because they are different. However, they are different because they have more guts and determination than most of us can imagine.
Para Athletes are athletes pure and simple. There are those people who would like to have one Olympic Games to include Para Athletes, but that seems unlikely due to the immense logistical problems, one can imagine total melt down in many of the host countries should they have to organise an all-inclusive event, it could take more than four years to set up the logistics alone. Inclusivity is good wherever possible, but it has to be right for the participants most of all.
Athletes are driven individuals otherwise they could not achieve the endurance, the speed and the techniques, and all of those special talents that they display to the amazement of everyone watching. These are people who run marathons before breakfast, train many hours each day in the most gruelling weather conditions and in some cases put careers on hold whilst they go for gold – at whatever level they aspire to. When most of us are sitting down to the Sunday roast or Christmas dinner, these guys are cycling, running, weight lifting and swimming with a level of commitment that is profoundly impressive. The athletes I speak of have no additional label, they do not need one, they are athletes under the skin, intact or otherwise.
Watching a man who lost both legs in Afghanistan doing press ups however is so impressive that it brings tears to ones eyes. This guy does not have the counter balance of feet to assist him, he balances and lifts using sheer strength and grit. Watching unsighted cyclists pedalling at high speed whilst relying on a sighted guide to enable them to go ever faster to win the race is enough to take the breath away. Divers diving, tennis players and archers seated in wheel chairs, races between people in mini chariots going like blazes in pursuit of one another, plus basketball in wheel chairs that looks like gladiatorial fun with hard knocks, great fun to watch but I bet there are a lot of painful bruises afterwards.
This Olympics fan is looking forwards to watching Ellie Simmonds swim to more Gold medals, she always brings more tears to my eyes, come on Ellie! What a gutsy character.
All of these folks are Olympians in every sense, they are first and foremost Athletes though regardless of their limitations, when it comes to heart they are champions one and all.
Loads of Gold and Silver and Bronze medals to come and loads of Golden telephone boxes too, starting Wednesday 7th September. We wish them all success and happy times.