Pick of the Week
(For Brits only, unfortunately)
Inside Incredible Athletes – 4OD
A programme documenting some of the adaptations, histories and preparations of people hopeful to compete in the London 2012 Paralympic Games, narrated by my favourite English actor at present, Tom Hardy ("You’ve got to dream a little bigger, dahhhling").
This merits a whole blog entry in itself. It is an awe inspiring programme following a swimmer with cerebral palsy, two members of the wheelchair rugby team, a horse rider whose muscles never developed in his limbs (and he is so good at dressage he competes and beats able bodied athletes), the captain of the blind football team and two sprint athletes. The whole programme follows them in their training, their stories of why they are disabled and some of the physiological assessment of their injuries.
Wheelchair Rugby is a particular example of being eye wateringly brutal – one of the players, playing in a tournament in Germany, collided with another player, but continued to play. When he got back to England a couple of days later, he went to hospital, and he found that the collision had broken his sternum, seven ribs, and bruised his heart. He was in intensive care for three days and in hospital for three months!
However, as he had dislocated his sixth vertebra which squashed his spinal cord against his seventh, which meant while he could feel his arms, he was completely numb from his chest down.
These rugby players have to have superhuman strength to play – most people would think that as they are disabled, they can’t reach the same levels of energy and strength as able bodied players but this simply isn’t true. Their bodies and their minds adapted and the power and strength they can produce equals if not surpasses that produced by able bodied athletes.
The most incredible story was that of the blind football team and their captain. Blind from birth, he nonetheless ‘sees’ via sound; the slightest sound he can use to aid his spatial perception, and having been blind from birth, this sight – he says that the sounds do form a visual impression of his world and his place in it – has given him flawless spatial perception. He has been playing for 15 years, has scored 106 goals in competitions. The ball has a rustling sound, like a crisp packet, and from this and each other the game is effectively played with sonar. Yes, Daredevil is a bad film that is actually demonstrating something really awesome. The part at the end where they are playing in the British Museum maybe contrived for an advertisement, but at the end of the day a football in a museum is asking for trouble but none (thankfully) arrived. Playing in the Egyptology room with statues sticking out all over the shop is especially demanding of perfect skill.
I like watching the Paralympics and other disabled athletics competitions because unlike in the regular competitions, it means so much more for the athletes to be there. I’ve never seen a paralympian get in a strop with the officials or worse, decide they also count for points in Kickboxing. As well as that, its a much more even playing field – there is no guarantee that one nation will win a particular event (though Australians are a bit too much of a shoo-in for the Wheelchair Rugby) which to me, makes a lot of the Olympics a bit boring. If every event shoo in was like watching a Usain Bolt of that sport, then alright, but it isn’t. It’s just dull, and often bent. The Paralympics is completely different in its attitude, its history and its sense of hope and festival, and I think more people should remember that the Olympics doesn’t finish after the last able bodied 100 metre relay race (won by America if they don’t muck it up) is run.
Aha, I’ve found the whole episode on youtube, so I hope everyone can watch it! All copyright goes to Channel Four, obviously and all that.