So the paralmpic games are now over and what a success they were for all including those participating in wheelchairs. From the opening ceremony where Aaron `Wheelz’ Fotheringham whizzed down the ram in his wheelchair to perform a breathtaking somersault to the games themselves, a wonderful event and possibly the best games ever. Much was done during the event to break preconceived ideas around disability.
The 11 day event saw over 4000 athletes from 160 countries compete for over 500 medals and there were certainly some spectacles to be seen in most of the 23 sports. During the opening ceremony Wheelchair basketball veteran Brad Ness had the honour of carrying the flag for Australia. The Aussies’ gold was the final medal presented at the Games, and marked the first time any nation had won back-to-back wheelchair rugby Paralympic titles and a world championship in a four-year stretch.
Wheelchair rugby received a great deal of coverage and popularity as the sport builds its momentum in the UK and the rest of the world. How the wheelchairs stand the brutal punishment is beyond me and the players control and speed is most impressive. Team Canada has long been considered one of the best wheelchair rugby teams in the world with the UK coming in close behind them.
Wheelchair racing was as fascinating as ever and the speeds achieved over both short distances and the marathons were phenomenal. None more impressive than 24 year old Hannah Cockcroft from Halifax who has expanded her horizons recently by setting up her own management company for athletes that already boasts clients from both the British Olympic and Paralympic teams. Her performance in the events was formidable. Known for her tough attitude she attacked Nike by claiming it had shown no interest in endorsing her because “I have no feet”. That might have appeared puerile – the brand sponsors other Paralympic wheelchair-users – but it also demonstrates that, as an athlete, Cockroft has a huge ego and wants to be seen – and heard.
Perhaps what is most striking by events like this is the determination displayed by all of the athletes who apply themselves to their chosen sport. To watch the various sports undertaken by wheelchair users is fantastic to show how mobile they are and how they have adapted to using a wheelchair in their chosen sport. A brilliant event with great organisation and in the end a good following from spectators for virtually all of the sporting genres.