Just before writing this, I was part of a panel discussion on Zoom for National Sporting Heritage Day. You can watch and listen to this on the 30th of September by registering here. There were representatives from a number of other disability sport organisations. One of the questions discussed was ‘How can you encourage more participation in para-sport activities?’
Perhaps like me, you have watched parts, or maybe all, of the coverage of the Paralympics 2021 in Tokyo. I am immensely proud of what the Paralympians have achieved coming second on the medal table. There were some amazing performances from elite athletes, showing what those with different abilities can achieve. This was all way above what most of us can possibly hope to achieve, but should that discourage us from having a go?
A stand out performance for me was in a lesser known sport, although it is an original Para sport. If you are unfamiliar with Boccia, David Smith’s Gold Medal Boccia winning performance can be seen on YouTube at Boccia Fight Back To Claim Gold | David Smith | Tokyo 2020 Paralympics – YouTube
A quote from David Smith that I liked, was that he played Boccia for four years before he ever won anything! That sounds more like my level of playing, but it is still an enjoyable activity, both from the sporting and social aspects. Perhaps at my level of play, it is the social aspects that become more important. My natural social butterfly nature can become intensely competitive at times, but I have to realise where my true talents lie.
We all have to find our own niche and participate in the activities that we enjoy, regardless of how good we may be, in comparison to the enjoyment that is derived.
Something else that I am involved in is accessible cycling. I go to a local group that is part of a national organisation called Wheels For All. If you are interested, there may be a group close to you Wheels for All | Cycling Projects — The UK inclusive cycling charity
Here is a picture of me doing my best on a hand bike.
I can manage three laps of a standard athletics track (about 400 metres?) before my arms give out. Then I can have a rest before attempting more laps on a tandem side-by-side. As you might expect, there is tea and chat with other participants afterwards! We all have to start somewhere.
At the end of the Paralympics, the athletes were celebrated at a concert in Wembley at the #paralympicsgbhomecoming. They deserve all the praise they have had, coming second in the medals table.
The highlight for me was to see Joe Powell-Main in his incredible dance performance alongside the Royal Ballet. Joe has competed in Para Dance UK National Competitions in the past and it is great to see him raising the profile of wheelchair dance in such a spectacular way. If you missed the event on TV, Joes performance can be seen on YouTube Birdy Nobody Knows Me Like You with Joe Powell-Main and The Royal Ballet Wembley Arena – YouTube
Joe certainly deserved his standing ovation, if that is indeed possible from a wheelchair audience!