Wednesday, 19 September 2012


It is not often that the sight of something reduces me to tears.  This did.

I haven't told you about the Paralympics.  We went for four sessions on four consecutive days:  Friday 31st August to Monday 3rd September.  Cycling, athletics, rowing and equestrian (dressage).  Four amazing days. Four fantastic venues. Several medal ceremonies.

It was the women's tandem cycling medal ceremony that did me in.  Earlier, we'd watched the final and the race-off for third place, and cheered and yelled and (probably) deafened the cyclists.  


 The results were put on the board.
The girls were presented with their medals.  We all stood to attention and faced the flags.

As one of the small contingent of Aussies in the audience, I sang my national anthem and, then, it happened. There I was, in the middle of singing Advance Australia Fair, tears streaming down my cheeks, trying not to sob.

We witnessed all sorts of greatness that day.  And on the next three days.  The triumph of the human spirit over adversity.  While the Olympic athletes are correctly feted as amazing, talented individuals; it's the Paralympians who are a step beyond.  They are the true heroes. 

In the Olympic Stadium on the Saturday night, we witnessed four world records fall and several Paralympic records, including Oscar Pistorius breaking his own world record in the T44 200m heats.

 The stadium was amazing, but there were so many events going on that it was hard to keep up.

Is it enough to say that we were there?  We were their witnesses?  

This was taken  at the rowing, when it was cold and wet, with that horizontal, floaty rain that only seems to exist in these islands and which the Irish call "soft weather".

We witnessed the heartbreak of a Spanish rower who, paralysed from the waist down and strapped into his boat, was leading his race by several lengths when the velcro on his strapping gave way, less than 100m from the finish.   Following frantic efforts to re-strap himself in, he came in third.

If the audience had had a choice, we would have given him a special gold medal for his heroism and courage.

How can I adequately describe the Paralympic Dressage?  We witnessed the Individuals Competition at the "Costa del Greenwich".  (It was so hot and sunny, my legs actually took on colour!) 

Against the most amazing backdrop, we witnessed miracles.  Men and women, often with limited - or no - muscle control below their waists, controlling huge horses by the touch of their fingers.  And making them dance.

Seriously, there were horsemen/horsewomen who were only upright because they used special saddles - bouncing around like a sack of potatoes whenever their horses trotted - often with limited movement in their hands and arms, and they made their horses dance by the sheer force of their willpower.  

They are the true heroes.  We, their audience, are not worthy to breath the same air.

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