23 Jul 2010

Paralympics: on a wheel and a prayer

The fact is that you need to be entering the scoring area with some speed before you hurl the ball.

You spot your chance and then your head and your mental systems are in a panic…Shall I use my hands to propel the wheel chair or hang on to the ball before Gordon Ramsay lives up to his name and rams me!

The other night Channel 4 staged an extraordinary party to celebrate their victory in securing the Paralympics TV coverage, and their plans for the staging of the games in 2012.

I turned up as a complete innocent. There was an incredible atmosphere in the room – mechanical wheel chairs, partially sighted, deaf, blind and other athletes with disabilities.

Yet within a few minutes of being present, the awareness of disability fell away and we were all bound as one upon what promises to be an extraordinary televised adventure.

Goal ball, Sitting Volleyball, Blind Football – a string of Paralympics sports I had little or no awareness of. For me, the high spot of the evening was that of being dragooned into a cage at one end of the room to play wheelchair basketball.

There is an alarming energy on the pitch. The basket is the same height as it is in conventional basketball and yet we are in chairs with slanted Speedo wheels.

And Speedo there is. I had dozens of opportunities to score.

Saw my pitch hit the rim of the basket so often, curl around it and then plop to the floor without going through the net. And then, not once, but twice actually seeing the thing go right through the basket and SCORE!

I came away from the evening feeling elated that my channel had secured the games.

2012 will see the first ever wall to wall live daily coverage of extraordinary events.

The UK teams will sadly be bolstered by the many highly athletic military men and women wounded in the Afghan war.

I say sadly, because no one wishes them the consequence of their service.

At the same time, they will be significant drivers in the UK effort. Several have spoken of the amazing role that physical fitness and athletic ambition have in their rehabilitation.

We have tended to see 2012 simply for the London Olympics. I suspect the Paralympics will make their presence felt as never before.

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