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The challenges and triumphs of paralympic athletes.

With just over a week to go until the Paralympic games 2012 get under way in London the UK media, and public are starting to turn their attention to these Parallel Olympic games and the athletes who will be competing. The public response so far has been very good, with record crowds expected and many events edging closer to being sold out. The games will involve athletes from across the world competing in 20 different sports, seeking to achieve medal glory for themselves and their countries. These athletes have trained for the last four years similar to the Olympic athletes for this one chance of Olympic glory. Many hours of blood, sweat and tears have been invested by these athletes in the pursuit of success. The routes into disability sport for these athletes have been wide and varied. Some athletes were born with their disability, while other athletes’ disabilities have resulted from an accident or incident, but whatever the route, these circumstances have presented significant challenges for these athletes to overcome. Add on top of this the challenge and workload of training for, and competition as, an elite athlete, then you have individuals who are truly inspirational people.

To excel with a disability in an able-bodied world, or to achieve success as an Olympic athlete  is very hard work. To achieve both together is awe inspiring. Training to become an elite athlete in any sport or discipline is very difficult. The hardwork, commitment, motivation, and mental toughness required is something that most people don’t possess. The sacrifices that are required by the athlete and those around them are significant, both in terms of lifestyle and investment. This is one of the reasons why only a small number of athletes are ultimately successful, and are rightly respected as the champions they are. Following the very successful Olympic games the Team GB medal winners are now household games who will serve as role models for our society and athletes of the future.

But, for the Team GB Paralympic athletes, this sort of recognition has historically not been achieved. The UK media and public has been vocal over the past couple of weeks in their desire for Olympic athletes to be held up as examples of what we believe is important in our society, and as a result seen as role models for future generations. Following this line of thinking the Paralympic athletes should be right up there as household names being recognised for their achievement and what can be achieved with the right attitude, suport and commitment.

These Paralympic athletes have overcome massive challenges, in their personal and athletic lives. I for one will sit with admiration and the upmost respect for every athlete at the Paralympic games, both as people and as athletes for demonstrating the best of what it means to be British. So with only a week until the next festival of sport begins, the country is gearing up to be inspired all over again. Bring on the games!

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