London 2012 Part 6: Top 8 Paralympians

So the Paralympics are over. Its been a fantastic tournament, although unfortunately I didn’t get to see as much of it as I would’ve liked, even with Channel 4’s brilliant coverage here in the UK. For this reason I’ve only done a top 8 as opposed to a top 10 as I did for the Olympics, but here are 8 of the athletes who have charmed and inspired me over the games, in no particular order.

Martine Wright

Country: Great Britain. Event: Sitting volleyball.

Martine Wright didn’t win any medals, but her story was possibly one of the most heartbreaking and inspiring. The day after London was awarded the games, July 7th 2005, the city suffered its worst terrorist attacks when the underground and a bus were targeted during rush hour. Martine Wright was among those injured, losing both legs, yet she continued and joined Team GB’s sitting volleyball squad. A feature on her at the start of the games was powerfully moving, and highlighted the woman’s courage and strength of character.

Wright (number 7) in action for the sitting volleyball team, a sport that looks hella hard.

Ellie Simmonds

Country: GB. Event: Swimming, 400m freestyle (Gold), 200m medley (Gold), 100m freestyle (Silver), 50m freestyle (Bronze)

If Jessica Ennis was the poster girl for the Olympics, 17 year old Simmonds was the star for the Paralympics. Having tasted glory and charmed the nation as a 13 year old in Beijing she returned here and had a sensational games. She collected four medals over the course of the games and continued to be a wonderfully charming figure throughout, a true star and definitely due some recognition. Dame Ellie, perhaps?

Ellie poses with one of her medals.

Alex Zanardi

Country: Italy. Event: Cycling, road time trial (Gold), road race (Gold), road team relay (Bronze)

This list is pretty GB heavy, but here’s one of the foreign athletes who impressed me. Zanardi was interviewed before one of his events and came across as a brilliantly down to earth guy who retained his sense of humour. What impressed me most was that Zanardi is a former racing driver who was injured in a horrific accident.

Having pursued a career in motorsport one can only imagine the devastating effect this injury must have had on him, as all his plans must have suddenly seemed to have been taken away, but Zanardi managed to get back into racing as well as taking up paracycling, which is what he won 3 medals for in the games. His drive and refusal to allow the accident to stop him is truly admirable.

Zanardi in action.

Richard Whitehead

Country: GB. Event: Athletics, 200m (Gold), 100m.

Around halfway into Whitehead’s 200m final it looked like it was game over, but then from out of nowhere he came blazing from the back, passing all his competitors and comfortably winning, even striking a pose as he crossed the line.

Ryley Batt

Country: Australia. Event: Wheelchair rugby (Gold)

I tuned into the wheelchair rugby having been promised violence, not only from Channel 4’s trailer but from the fact a documentary on the sport was entitled Murderball. While there were plenty of big hits what really impressed me was the speed and skill on display, its an engaging, entertaining sport and I can’t understand why its not on TV more. One of the standouts was Australia’s Batt who was a complete beast, in the final against Canada he appeared unstoppable, a big bloke who powered himself on leaving opponents trailing behind him. It was a fantastic, utterly dominant performance.

Batt (in green) leaving opponents in his wake.

David Weir

Country: GB. Event: Athletics, marathon (Gold), 5000m (Gold), 1500m (Gold), 800m (Gold)

Nicknamed the Weirwolf, this athlete was utterly dominant, steaming to victory in four different events. After his marathon victory on the last day he confessed to feeling as though he was dying 5 miles in but pushed on through the pain and sprinted to victory. The versatility he showed in the distances he covered was astonishing and he seemed a thoroughly decent bloke too.

Jody Cundy

Country: GB Event: Cycling, 4km pursuit (Bronze), 1km time trial

With all the talk of inspiration and overcoming adversities its easy to forget that to the athletes the Paralympics is just about the competition, which often people seem to believe is less intense that during the Olympics. Cundy showed how serious it was after a decision robbed him during his first event and he unleashed an angry, foul mouthed tirade in response. It was an astonishing scene that hammered home just how dedicated and fired up these athletes are and endeared Cundy to the nation. The next day he won a medal, to massive cheers at the velodrome.

Cundy loses his cool

Aled Davies

Country: GB. Event: Athletics, discus (Gold), shot put (Bronze)

Finishing off with a Welshman, Davies’ jubilation at his discus Gold was magical to watch as the big man jumped around the place roaring and an interview afterwards revealed him to be a likable lad. It was a great moment and one of my personal highlights of the games.

Any thoughts? Think I missed someone? You know what to do. BETEO.

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