Olympics compared to the Paralympics

Anthi Karagianni from Greece. Long jump, visually impaired
Anthi Karagianni from Greece. Long jump, visually impaired
Slide 2
Slide 2
Slide 4
Slide 4
A personal best for GB’s Aled Davies on his final throw of the discus
A personal best for GB’s Aled Davies on his final throw of the discus
And a gold medal for him.
And a gold medal for him.

FICTION

As Suzanne Shawcross entered the flood-lit stadium the noise wrapped round her like the bandaging they had strapped to her in the Medivac helicopter. She had heard the sound from the practice track next door, and despite all her training she found it enticing, exciting and full of hope. Now it seemed overwhelming. There had been cheering at the opening ceremony, but that had been generic. This was personnel, directed at individuals.

The procession to the long jump area paused under the slowly darkening sky, waiting for a track event to pass. Across the stadium she could see the heavily built shot putters, hobbling on their prosthetics. To one side a javelin was picked up from where it had landed, to be placed carefully in the open top of one of the radio-controlled models of a Mini Cooper, used for ferrying the javelins and discs back to the start. Blind javelin. Amazingly the umpires stood close to the target area.

The procession to the long-jump sand pit continued its stately way. The umpires, the athletes who chose to walk, like Suzanne, and those who preferred to ride on the wheeled bench with its canopy against the suspicion of sunlight. The march was slow, with everyone walking out of pace in a way that irritated Suzanne. There were lots of things that angered Suzanne since her return from Afghanistan. At least the athletics helped her focus her rage on constructive actions.

She stretched a hand down, checking the fit of her prosthetic blade to the stump beneath her right knee. It was her good foot for jumping. In contrast the left foot was natural. It gave her the flexibility to turn, and stability.

There had been more talk on the TV last night about the Paralympics. It started with the innocent question of why so many world records were being set. The TV panel seemed to take ages discussing it. Suzanne found the question simple, obvious. There were too few large international events for this kind of sport.

Blind runner with guideSuzanne’s thoughts were interrupted as a cheer from the crowd rippled round the stadium as the lead runners past on their track. Each blind runner was tied at the wrist to a sighted guide whose strict instructions were to keep fractionally behind.

The runners past and Suzanne’s thoughts went back to the TV chat show. They had asked which was superior, the Olympics or the Paralympics. The question had puzzled her. The Olympics was the high tip of a pyramid of perhaps a hundred million people who performed active sports. In comparison the Paralympics was an elite, where you only entered by rite of passage through tragedy, pain and humiliation. In her case it had begun with an improvised explosive device that had been buried under an Afghan farm track that they thought safe. Suzanne wondered what would have happened if the highly-strung Olympians had had to face such trauma.

There was a new roar from the crowd rippling round the stadium. Suzanne looked to the track. There was a single blind runner with her guide. They were way behind the others. She was struggling, limping from a fall, but she refused to give up and the crowd loved her for it. As the woman past Suzanne could see the pain on her face. ‘That’s us,’ she thought, ‘we never give up trying.’

Suzanne Shawcross, August 31th 2012, woman’s long jump class F42-44. Bronze medallist.

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