What I Learnt from the Paralympics

At times I can be cynical and negative. I think one just has to look at some of my previous blog posts and you can see the cynicism and negativity in my writing. I would like to think that not everything I write is so downbeat but I cannot deny it’s there. But watching the Paralympics made me want to stop such attitudes. I wanted to be more hopeful, forgiving and positive. I wanted to stay away from the negative cynical bitterness that is very present in this world. While I still think we should be people live in the world who question things and speak out when we think something is not right, I do not want to be someone who is constantly dwelling on the negative.

So with Paralympic GB taking part in the Manchester Heroes Parade today, I thought it would be a good time to write about what I learnt while watching the Paralympics.

After Megan Giglia won Great Britain’s first gold medal it occurred to me that something like that could happen to me. When being interviewed after winning she revealed that she did not remember much of London 2012 Paralympics because she was busy working. Then I found out she had suffered a stroke in 2013 that had led her to become disabled. So she went from being able-bodied when the last Paralympics were on, to being disabled in this year’s Paralympics. I could have been that person who was born without an arm, I could be someone who suffers a stroke and becomes disabled. Therefore I should be thankful that I am able-bodied. I mean really, if you can walk without a wheelchair, can see, can hear, have two functioning arms and two legs that walk with do really have anything to complain about? We should view and treat people who have a disability as people, not as a freak but as a fellow human being. A disabled person is no less human, they are just someone who just does not have the same use of their body as able-bodied people do.

Inspirational! I know some Paralympian’s do not like to have that word associated with them (although not everyone feels that way). I think what was said on Channel 4 before the closing ceremony was very true. Clare Balding said to summarise a video by Alex Zanardi “Inspirational is not what any of the athletes do, it is how you interpret it’. A Paralympian can be just as inspirational as Leicester City were in winning last season’s Premier League or JK Rowling getting her first book published. Like those competing in the Paralympics, Leicester and Rowling were kept being told that they could not achieve what they actually went on to achieve. Now I do not want to over romanticise the life of Paralympian’s. The fact that Marieke Vervoort says she will go through with euthanasia (when the time is right), is a reminder that having a disability is really tough. Some athletes (like Marieke) are in constant pain. But the fact remains that these are people who are overcoming the obstacles of pain, judgement and not having a full functioning body yet they do not sit a home feeling sorry for themselves or let their pain, the judgments and disability take them out.

Finally, there was the death of Iranian cyclists Bahman Golbarnezhad, that was a great reminder that sometimes we are not as strong as we think we are. Marc Woods was spot on when on Channel 4 he talked about how Bahman’s death shows how fragile we really are. At times we may feel indestructible but we’re not. Life can we taken from so quickly, so unexpectedly. We should live our lives with thankfulness and try to remember that life can be taken from us without warning.

I think what one takes from the Paralympics depends on the individual. Amy Purdy (who danced with a robot in the opening ceremony), wrote on Twitter, ‘Having a disability does not make one “inspirational”. However, hard work, perseverance & determination does’. I would agree with her but at the end of the day, it is how you view it.

Contact me at onthisblog@yahoo.com

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