Thursday, September 13, 2012

Post-paralympic Parisian Post

Well then. The Paralympics are over for another four years, which is just as well as it might take me four years to recover. I thought that being an athlete was difficult, but I hadn't counted on the stress in being a spectator. You see, when you're a paralympian, you have a team manager who organises transport, food, access to games, and sometimes sightseeing and entertainment to pass he downtime. As a spectator, I needed to provide this all for myself...with mixed success, let me tell you.
I became quite expert with the bus system...apart from the 'hop on hop off' bus. It seems only a few of those had wheelchair access, over three different routes. The bus company didn't see why this was a problem. For Gerry and I, it meant a long wait to 'hop on', only to watch two non-accessible buses go by. Followed by a discussion with a driver where he pointed out that when we 'hop off' we might need to wait for three or so buses to 'hop on' again. Not so much the 'hop on hop off' experience, more like the 'get our money back and go to the pub' experience.
As a spectator, as I said, you play every minute of every game. As a player, you do this too, but you have the opportunity to influence the outcome. Your actions have an effect. In London, in the crowd, I spent every game chewing the inside of my cheek, like I did when I was on the bench as a player. By the end of the tournament, I was actively avoiding orange juice
(carefully replacing it with alcoholic ginger beer, score!!!) as the insides if my cheeks were so sore.
But what can I say about the tournament? As you possibly know, the australian women's wheelchair basketball team, the gliders, won a silver medal. I can't speak for those players, but what I can do is tell you about my feelings when I won a silver in the Athens paralympics.
In a team sport, winning a silver means you lost the gold medal game. You go home with a shiny medal, of which you will eventually be proud, but you lost your last game. It's a hard position to be in. It took me a few months after Athens to start saying that I won the silver medal, and not that I had lost the gold.
I know this blog is meandering a little as I reflect on the London Paralympics. It's very difficult to reflect on an event that is: 1. Momentous, 2. Record-breaking, and 3. Represents many of the values that makes me me. The Paralympics is a gathering of people for whom negotiating the world is a tad more complex than the average person. People who have had to develop resilience, coping skills, negotiating skills, and a high belief in their own abilities...and that's just to go shopping! The lessons you learn as a young person with a disability in the presence of paralympians provide a framework to build a life. I will forever be grateful to those athletes who took me under their wings, and in turn, I tried to do the same.
So, yes the Paralympic games is a sporting event, and the sport was superb. However, it is so much more than that. For a child with a disability, it might be the first time they see a role model, a hero, something to aspire to, that isn't reliant on all body parts working, or even all body parts being present. For those of you with all your working bits all in the right places, you might not realise how important this is. Let's just say that the Paralympics feeds my soul.
I plan on attending the next Paralympics, in Rio in 2016. Brazil, the land of parties, Mardi Gras, and skimpy bikinis. I have four years to turn into a supermodel!!!
Cheers, Lisa

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