Many people see the Paralympics as adjacent to the main event. For me it is very much the other way round. I wanted to share some thoughts I have when I see these athletes.
I know some of their backgrounds which allows me to understand a little of the uphill extra work they have to put in just to be recognised in their sport. A previous work colleague who is an IT specialist will be competing in the Boccia challenge (A sport where even with the most profound disability you can still take part)
Particularly with Dressage, I am aware just how hard it is to control, guide and encourage a tonne of horse to do what you are asking when you have Cerebral Palsy. I’ve had to quit riding, so I cheer the team on, do have a look at the classifications as it’s really interesting how that works
The government provides next to no funding – the families have to find a lot of very deep pockets with a lot of sponsorships and many of these athletes also have full-time/part-time jobs. If you google Sophie Christianson as a public figure, she has a 1st Class pure mathematics degree and works in London as a statistician coding and computer programming work.
The athletes when they get home often find that their disability payments get stopped because they have been seen competing in Tokyo – or wherever – for their country and when they return have subsequently lost their blue badge and motability vehicle as a result
Wheelchairs which are essential get lost/damaged in transit due to airline handling of disability equipment which renders them unable then to compete and costs a fortune for replacement and time stress and money
Finally – one of the deaf/blind athletes who were due to compete this year in the swimming was told she could not take her assistant/PA/mother as there wasn’t enough spaces!
So when I watch these amazing, driven athletes I don’t see they are disabled, I see they against the odds, can still smash records, compete on the world stage, despite all that gets thrown at them by society. Ellie Simmonds is my hero, she is just under my height, yet look at her go in the pool!