‘I lost my leg aged five…
now I’m 1.9 seconds behind Usain Bolt’ – Jonnie Peacock
Although 2008 provided the watershed moment for me in regards to the Olympics, the Paralympics still very much flew under the radar for me. That is, however, until my application to be a volunteer at London 2012 was deemed successful and I was appointed a London 2012 Games Maker for the duration of the 2012 Paralympic Games. As a result, I thought I’d look into the Paralympics in a little more detail and, the more I looked, the more excited I became.
Due to the fact I was volunteering, I actually thought that my opportunity to watch the Paralympics in London would pass me by. Fortunately whenever people didn’t turn up to collect their tickets for on-going events, they were given to the volunteers who were relieved of their duties for the duration of the allocated event. This was done on a rotational basis but actually would happen more than you might think (crazy, I know) and so, in the second week of the Paralympics, I found myself sitting inside the Olympic Stadium watching the Athletics.
It’s extremely difficult to put into words just how eye-opening and amazing an experience watching the Paralympics was but, if you read on, I will recount a couple of things that happened to try paint a picture.
During London 2012 the Olympic Stadium could hold up to 66,000 spectators and, more often than not, it was at capacity during the Olympic and Paralympic Games. Imagine then, 66,000 spectators so quiet you could hear pin-drop during the blind long jump*. The silence is vital to this event as each jumper’s ‘guide’ claps them down the runway, speeding up as they reach the jumping board. This not only keeps them running in a straight line, but also indicates when and where they need to jump.
Another amazing event is blind running*. Similarly to the long jump, each runner has a ‘guide’, allowing them to team up in a sort of take on the buddy system. The visually-impaired Paralympian and their guide run side-by-side down the track. It’s pretty intense and the level of training must be unbelievable as these guys have to be totally in sync throughout due to the fact they are connected by their wrists to one another. One step out of line, or one running faster than the other, could send you both tumbling to the ground.
However, the most heart-warming moment of the day goes out to Josue Cajuste, one of two athletes representing Haiti in their first ever Paralympic Games. Although he finished in last place in the F42 Javelin final, he captured the hearts and minds of the crowd due to his sheer joy in being at the games. What makes his story all the more amazing is that his participation in the games was put in jeopardy by the 2010 Haiti Earthquake and, without donations, fund-raising and some amazing charities, he would not have been able to come across at all.
It was a truly special experience, one that will live on with me forever.
To see my complete bucket list, click here