After weeks of a saddening lull following the London 2012 Olympic Games, it’s about time we got back to some multi-eventing with the Paralympics.
I’ll come back to the excruciating Channel 4 coverage in a bit, but the focus today is most certainly on the “superhumans”, the disabled athletes who are competing for gold in all sorts of sports. So far this afternoon I’ve managed to catch swimming, cycling, table tennis and para-dressage. The ability of all of these athletes is, of course, phenomenal, but not all of these events seem to have translated to the Paralympics quite as well as others.
You may have noticed (if you weren’t hiding under a rock) that I’ve become quite the cycling fan this year following Britain’s success in a variety of competitions. My attention towards the Vuelta may have slipped slightly in recent days, but the Paralympics competitions beginning this afternoon got me right back into it. The one that was televised whilst I was watching was the men’s 1km time trial; competitors with a variety of handicaps race against each other, with their overall times modified to account for their disability. It’s amazing to watch a bloke with one leg power his way around the velodrome, aiming to match the times (retrospectively) of someone with two incomplete hands. If they can ride their bicycle at speed, then why can’t I put the effort in, just because I’m a little unfit?
My problem with the Paralympics is how uncomfortable it can be to watch, on occasion. Despite how difficult it must be to cycle with one leg, I feel a twinge of unease when half of a pair of shorts is left dangling where an Olympian would have two fully-functioning legs. I feel sheepish and I don’t know why, because I also feel inspired and awe towards them. It’s going to be something I have to get to used for the next week or so, because their achievements are going to far overshadow what is holding them back.
Of course, not everything is quite as inspiring as disabled cycling. Wheelchair table tennis seems a little bit… spectator-unfriendly. Whereas the Olympics saw the Chinese and Koreans dance around a table and perform unbelievable volleys, two fairly large wheelchair-bound Europeans are just poking bog-standard shots at each other, rallies lasting no more than four or five hits. It’s a shame as I really got into last month’s action. Dressage doesn’t really appear to be any different, although I’m not entirely sure listening to Coldplay blaring out with “Para, Para – Paradise” is a very good idea. Back to the unease of watching the Paralympics, we’re also greeted with a horse pooping on the sand as soon as the action begins.
I won’t linger on the Channel 4 coverage so far as they need time to gel and find out what works. I won’t join the idiotic “no advert” brigade; they need adverts to survive, unlike BBC, where we pay for our own sport. Then again, had they not spent £6 million more than they needed to, they could have perhaps got rid of a few more breaks. Anyway, dozens of disabled reporters and presenters have been trained up to provide top-notch coverage and the results have been mixed so far. I’m not good with names, but the Royal Marine-turned-wheelchair racer-turned afternoon presenter has been a great laugh so far. His female co-presenter has been dour and has bad hair. Fortunately, we have BBC’s success story Clare Balding to look forward to later on, I imagine. Unfortunately, we have the ridiculous dinosaur that is Jon Snow as well. Can’t win them all!