I was invited to an ex PT clients garden party in July, and living on the Leatherhead Road, in Surrey, we managed to stand roadside and watch the cyclists approach and blast past! We all had a fantastic day, though with the peleton doing mid to late 30mph, it was almost over if you were playing about with the settings on your camera!
Now, while I was watching the Olympics on TV, and enjoying it, I didn’t have tickets to any of the “Olympic Village” events which I was a bit disappointed with, realising this was going to be my “only real chance” of seeing an Olympics live, especially as I’m about an hour to the stadium!
So when the lovely Victoria Newlands said she could source myself and the family some tickets for the Paralympics I snapped them up!
As a family we’d watched the previous few days of events on TV, and having 7 and 4 year old girls, I had to answer some of the usual questions, and explanations of why some didn’t have an arm, the differences between themselves and the athletes, and other such topics you often have to cover with young children. I started to wonder whether the day could become a “PC” nightmare, but thankfully they were great and really got into the events!
So first off we arrived at the “village” and it’s a great sight as you arrive. The Olympic Stadium, the various arenas, all different architecture and shapes – being someone who has been to Barcelona and really had no interest in looking at the architecture there, this is a big thing for me to say……..maybe because it was sport related?!!! The place was HEAVING with people, and ALL ages……plenty of children too, and the “Inspire a Generation” message couldnt have been stronger!
The second point is it is a “Village” – we decided to go and watch the Wheelchair tennis first, and found it was the last arena…….not good with a 4 year old in tow, who had to be bought a new pair of shoes at Westfield shopping centre due to wearing boots with no socks and them “rubbing” …….KIDS!!
So we got there, joined a huge queue, and thought this will take forever! About 10mins later we we’re in and heading to Court 2 for some GB action with Alex Jewitt v Saida of Japan. (A special mention here for all the staff/volunteers – everyone had a smile, was welcoming and really there to help – they are a CREDIT to GB!)Within the first game I saw the first rule difference – with wheelchair tennis the ball is allowed to bounce twice versus standard rules of one bounce.
Man, there is some skill, shoulder work, and wheelchair skills to this. Firstly let’s look at the server. They line their chair up about 45 degrees, ball goes up, and serve. You’re probably sitting now, lift your feet off the floor and pretend to throw a ball in the air and serve……probably average at best, but you’ve got to get direction, slice and power. Not just this but as soon as you’ve served both hands have to get down to the wheels, ready to move themselves into position.
I’m not sure if this is harder or being the receiver?! They start off at the baseline, and as the ball goes up, they move forward a few yards, so they make contact on the move. Firstly they have to guess/choose the right direction to move in, but secondly after returning, they’ve then got both hands on the wheels to move the chair back into line for the next shot.
It truly is amazing to watch, plenty of shoulder, upper body strength, but skill with timing, speed of movement, and quickness to turn, move, move, move, hit, move again……. A-mazing! Unfortunately, Saida was too strong for Jewitt, and he lost by 2 sets. Next in was Dave Phillipson, and from the warmup with his Canadian opponent, you could tell he was a bit tasty! The power was increased, his movement sharper and quicker, and he didn’t disappoint, taking the first set.
Unfortunately by this time the girls were complaining about being hungry……a common occurrence for young children, even if they’ve eaten about 30mins before….but it was lunch time, so with a bit of regret we went off for food. I seriously could have watched the wheelchair tennis all afternoon, both through admiration, skill level and pure attraction!
We wanted to get into see the wheelchair basketball as having watched some of the men’s on TV it looked equally action packed , but unfortunately the arena was rightly full! So after food we headed to the football arena for the 7-a-side football, and after another long, but equally super fast and efficient queue we we’re in! The arena and atmosphere was amazing – I believe they used this for the hockey in the Olympics. We were in for GB v Brazil. The guys here didn’t have full control/use of their muscles/limbs, either through strokes, heart attacks or cerebral palsy. Please correct me if I’m wrong, and apologies if so…….
The game started, and the tackles were flying in! This wasn’t gonna be a “let’s hope we can win game!”
Unfortunately, as happens in 11-a-side, the Brazilians were just too good, and we lost 3-0.
I’m sure judging by the teams reactions at the beginning of the game, how pumped and appreciative they were of the support, that despite losing, they knew the crowd we’re right behind their efforts!
After this game it was early evening, and a long day came to an end as we contemplated getting the kids back for food, and the train journey home, (not to mention the longish walk back through the village again, stopping for pictures/memories, towards the tube!)
It really was a great day out, not just to experience and see the setup, but to get a further understanding of what some of these athletes are not only capable of, but how they have adjusted and dealt with sport and life.
In a weird way, I kept thinking that most of the crowd watching probably have more in common with those athletes in the Paralympics over the Olympics, as each of those people taking part could well have been doing the same jobs as each of us, 1, 2+ years ago, but due to unfortunate circumstances we’re left dis-abled, and yet, decided not to just accept that they’re going to spend the rest of their lives this way, they decided to push their limits, their bodies and commit to something they can work on improving every day.
Next time you think something is out of your capability or choose not to do something that could actually progress you because it’s too hard, remember that some people out there would GRAB that chance without a second thought……
If only through that, each one of us can take this on board and look to better ourselves every day, I think you can then stand proud of yours and others achievements, and know we have done something worthwhile with our lives.
I’m certainly more in admiration of those less abled than myself from this day, and I hope that this Summer really does………… “Inspire a Generation”
As parents, our children’s future starts with our inspiration, decisions and support………..aim to do the right thing
British Airways as sponsors of the Paralympics have setup a host of extras! Videos/snippets of the days events, Tweets sent @British_Airways using the #HomeAdvantage will be played on the Park Live screens in the park. Take part!!