Western News

Now over to the Paralympic Games

ON THE SPORTING EDGE

Paul Reid

Thursday, August 23, 2012    

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BEDFORD, England - Driving through West London Tuesday morning on the way with the small Jamaican Paralympic team to pay a courtesy visit on the Jamaican High Commissioner Aloun Assamba, we saw a massive billboard with the Paralympic Games logo and a message, 'Thanks for the warm up, let the Paralympic Games begin'.

The 'warm up' would of course be the just concluded 27th Olympic Games that ended on August 12 and has been hailed by some as one of the best ever in terms of performance.

And while the Paralympics have always been over shadowed by its bigger, more muscular and able 'cousin', the Olympics, the organisers here in the UK and the International Paralympics association (IPC) are making certain everyone knows the 'Parallel Games' will be as exciting and will certainly evoke more emotions than superstars Usain Bolt or Mo Farrah, the UK distance runner were able to evoke.

Bolt and Farrah and most of those who took part in the Olympics Games are blessed with all four working limbs and can do just about anything they want, such as the mundane task of getting up from a chair by themselves and going to open a door, all by themselves, or even getting out of bed, if they wish.

Not so for the Paralympians who have been classified in various groups from single to double leg amputees, single to double arm amputees, varying degrees of blindness, Cerebral Palsy and even learning disabilities.

Some were born with the disability while others lost limbs and their sight through accidents, wars and even torture.

For the past two weeks the Jamaican team has been involved in a camp at the University of Bedfordshire in the sleepy East Anglia town of Bedford, more famous for the production of the Bedford Leyland not far from there.

They shared the camp with athletes from at least 11 other countries, including about seven or eight African nations most of who display the full range of disabilities.

Watching the various Paralympians go through their various practice routines however, it is obvious there is one area where the able bodied athletes with their multi-million dollar contracts and legions of support staff cannot outperform these 'children of a lesser god,' is heart.

From the midget discus throwers from Morocco to the blind Angolan sprinters to the long distance Algerian runners with their guide runners to the blind Lethoso teenager Mary, who was presented with two pairs of glasses by a British ophthalmologist free of cost, they don't sweat or bleed any less than their able -bodied peers.

Jamaica's seven times Paralympian Sylvia Grant refused the instructions of her coaches to cut short a training session on Monday as they suggested she looked a bit tired, but she continued throwing the javelin until she literally bled, tearing a well manicured nail on the spear.

Team captain Tanto Campbell who should medal here looked quite focused as he went through the discus throws with a torque in his back from each throw that would make most able- bodied athletes wince with pain.

Far fewer journalists than the 5,800 who were accredited for the Olympics will be in London starting August 29 but many will still be here and the world wide audience of billions who watched Bolt defend his sprint titles will tune in to watch these athletes defy the limits of their disabilities and defy the comprehension of most who won't even try to understand-- but it won't diminish their efforts, not one iota.

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