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What The Paralympics Meant For Me… Do You Feel The Same?

Sunday saw the Closing Ceremony of what has been dubbed, the greatest Paralympics ever, and I can honestly without a doubt agree whole-heartedly… here’s why…

There is something that I realized on Sunday evening while I lay on my couch enjoying the Closing Ceremony unfold on Channel 4, whilst my Facebook friends constantly got bombarded with my status updates as if I was live tweeting at an Apple Announcement event, is that it was quite clear that I had paid a lot more attention to the Paralympics than I had to the normal Olympics. Don’t get me wrong, I gave the normal Olympics my full attention, but for some reason I felt like I had given the Paralympics more and here’s why…

Firstly as I tweeted on Sunday night, The Olympics is known for bringing the world together however I do believe the Paralympics does it on a much bigger scale deep with in each person. During the Olympics you find yourself cheering your own country and in my opinion the average person doesn’t take as eager an approach to watching events that their country isn’t in unless it’s a sport that you thoroughly take an interest in, however as I found with myself during the Paralympics, not only was I cheering my own country in the events that they competed in but I found myself casting a huge amount of attention on just about any event that I could watch and cheered on everyone in events that my own country wasn’t even competing in. The reason being is that I was truly fascinated by what I saw, I saw things during this Paralympics that I’d never seen in my life before or regrettably never really taken the time to see in the past, but the fact that it was right on our doorstep made me take an interest, although strangely enough very willfully.

What we witnessed over the past two week was so inspirational on a level that I never thought possible, and by no means in a small dose. As I sat at my desk gazing at the screens in the office as the TV coverage ran throughout the day, it seemed like work became a distraction, we were shown magnificence at a higher level that I can rightfully say that most of mankind had not seen before, we saw the power of the human spirit which was so uplifting, that at times we were lifted so high up be the another person’s triumph, that you felt like crying tears of joy with them, many a time people we had never seen or heard of before not to mention being from another country altogether. When David Weir clinched his triumphant Gold Medal victory on Thursday night, I almost drizzed, I was so filled with emotion of that win for him that I could have been just as happy that he’d won it as he was… well maybe just :) but towards the end of that race you saw perseverance and a will to win like you’ve never seen before on a sportsman’s face, it was truly an inspirational moment. On Saturday I sat at the edge of my seat, heart pounding, nerves redlining and jumped up, fist pumping the air when Oscar Pistorius steamed his way across the finish line in the 400m clinching his Gold Medal victory as I think the world held its breath for him to win it.

Thinking back of the fascinating things I saw, Blind Football… I watched gobsmacked, the intense level of high speed concentration those guys must have to complete a game by just using your ears to track the ball is beyond me. Swimming had a multitude of jaw dropping moments, people with no arms or without the use of their legs finishing 200m in a quicker time than I could probably finish in 25m. Wheelchair tennis, sitting down volleyball, Archery where a guy used his toes to shoot a bow and arrow, there’s so many I could mention but I’m sure you get the just of it. These are things you don’t see everyday but should.

On Thursday 6th September I finally had my chance to watch the Paralympics at the Olympic Stadium, which turned out to be such an unforgettable experience I felt quite depressed that I hadn’t been able to be there more during both sets of games. That day I watched Oscar Pistorius, Samkelo Radebe, Zivan Smith and Arnu Fourie receive their Gold Medals in the victory ceremony for the 4 x 100m Relay which they also set a new World Record. One of my proudest moments came, where I stood in the crowd surrounded by an audience from all over the world and our national anthem, Nkosi sikelel iafrika was played. I won’t be lying where I was so filled with pride that I had to hold myself back from being the only guy surrounded by all these people singing it out loud at the top of my lungs, because I can tell you now, that almost happened. Amongst all the events happening that day, right in front of us we watched Blind Triple Jump, as I tweeted Ballz Radio while I was on my way home on the train later that day, I thought I’d seen it all, and then I saw Blind Triple Jump. Something you would have never even thought of, let alone thought was ever possible, happened before my very eyes. To tell you the truth, not a single South African competed in that event, yet I cheered on every athlete after each jump (since the crowd had to keep very quiet during each jump so the athlete could listen to his coach’s instruction) as if he were a fellow South African athlete.

For many years I’ve been haunted by an experience in my lifetime, where I was involved in a motorcycle accident and did my own time spending a couple months in a wheelchair. Although it was an upgrade from being horizontal on a hospital bed, it was possibly one of the most frustrating times of my life, its because of this that I have the utmost respect and compassion for those who our bound to a wheelchair for life. Ever since then I have counted my lucky stars that I was eventually able to walk properly again. The thought of not being able to was a horrific thought in my mind, a thought of lost hope, however from what I’ve seen over the past 2 weeks has shown me the strength and perseverance of the human spirit that hope can’t ever be lost, and nothing can stand in the way of a person who accepts a challenge and blasts their way through those imaginary limits and expectations, its truly and utterly remarkable.

I’ll tell you now this has been a tough post to write, because it is so damn difficult to find words to express how proud I am of the athletes that have competed in Paralympics London 2012. They have achieved and shown the world that they are unstoppable, will not let a disability get in the way of displaying what they are made of, they will go far beyond the limits of what the world deemed impossible and I have the utmost respect for that.

In my eyes, a record was broken each time each athlete competed in an event, a human record. I would like to give a virtual pat on the back and name each athlete who competed in Paralympics London 2012 however it would be virtually impossible to name each one, however I will take the time to type out each member of Team South Africa because they absolutely deserve every bit of it… and more!

Tshepo Bhebe – Good Game
Renette Bloem – Good Game
Charles Bouwer – Good Game
Dyan Buis – Good Game
Roxanne Burns – Good Game
Madre Carinus – Good Game
Arnu Fourie – Good Game
Natalie Du Toit – Good Game
Charl Du Toit – Good Game
Pieter Du Preez – Good Game
Anthony Dawson – Good Game
Andrea Dalle Ave – Good Game
Justin Govender – Good Game
Emily Gray – Good Game
Siphamandla Gumbi – Good Game
Achmat Hassiem – Good Game
Ilse Hayes – Good Game
Henri Herbst – Good Game
Kyle Louw – Good Game
Anrune Liebenberg- Good Game
Hilton Langenhoven – Good Game
Sandra Khumalo – Good Game
Phillippa Johnson – Good Game
Stuart Fellows – Good Game
Michael Louwrens – Good Game
Evans Maripa – Good Game
Sydwell Mathonsi – Good Game
Luvuyo Mbande – Good Game
Stuart McCreadie – Good Game
Marion Milne – Good Game
Teboho Mokgalagadi – Good Game
Wendy Moller – Good Game
Kgothatso Montjane – Good Game
Gift Mooketsi –Good Game
Marike Naude – Good Game
Kobus Oeschger – Good Game
Jonathan Ntutu – Good Game (watched your heat that you owned on Thursday!)
Richard Nortje – Good Game
Zandile Nhlapo – Good game
Jaco Nel – Good Game
Jan Nehro – Good Game
Marius Papenfus – Good Game
Kevin Paul – Good Game
Oscar Pistorius – Good Game
Johanna Pretorius – Good Game
Samkelo Radebe – Good Game
Marcus Retief – Good Game
Tadhg Slattery – Good game
Ntombizanele Situ – Good Game
Lucas Sithole – Good Game
Union Sekailwe – Good Game
Casper Schutte – Good Game
Shireen Sapiro – Good Game
Zivan Smith – Good Game
Marius Stander – Good game
Duane Strydom- Good Game
Fanie Van Der Merwe – Good Game
Ernst Van Dyk – Good Game
Samuel Van Niekerk – Good Game
Chenelle Van Zyl – Good Game
Jacobus Velloen – Good Game
Gerhard Viljoen – Good Game

Beware of these people folks… they know no limits in life! :)

Well done to you all, you have made us so proud and help changed the perception of so many and I can’t wait to see you all in action again in the near future! Thank you for changing the world, because however way you look at it, you certainly did.

I certainly hope that Sascoc and the South African Government launches a massive development program on the back of all this so that come Rio in 2016, our team is at least double or even triple the size of the team of 2012… who knows we may even be World Champs in not only normal Rugby, but also Wheelchair Rugby by the end of 2016… here’s hoping :)

I believe the world now looks at the Paralympics in a completely different light than ever before, I believe the world has woken up to the Paralympics like they’ve just been given an electric shock, because the Paralympics creates an electric buzz like no other!

I’m a changed person, how about you?

Check out this wicked Tribute To Team SA done by my mate, Marc Bertrand

Please do me a favour? in a few of your own words, tell me what the Paralympics means to you now and how it made you feel in the comments below, I’m sure all those listed above would really appreciate it and I’ll do my best to make sure they all get to see it.

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