I can’t say I remember my first contact with Paralympic Sport but I quite clearly remember when I met some Paralympic athletes for the first time. It was back in 1994 when I was lucky enough to visit the Commonwealth Games in Victoria Canada. Read about it here.
I had won a bursary to attend the Games and I have to say I was truly excited.
Just before my departure I got a call from a producer at BBC Radio 5, I think this was before the arrival of 5Live. She wanted to know if I could interview some Paralympic athletes at the games. I agreed to do it and it was all arranged.
On the appointed day I arrived at the athletes village to interview the three athletes. I have to be honest and say that I can only remember one of the athletes by name and that was Tanni Grey-Thompson. The interviews went well and I sent them back to the BBC in the UK from the Broadcast centre.
As I said earlier I do not remember my first encounter with Paralympic sport but it was almost certainly with Wheelchair Basketball.
Because of my involvement with the ‘running game’, I soon developed a love for the Wheelchair game because of the skill of some of the players. I can well remember my first television broadcasts of Wheelchair Basketball. It was for Channel 4 in their early days and we broadcast a tournament from Ponds forge in Sheffield. Somewhere in my archive is my original agreement to be involved with the tournament and the broadcast.
It was great fun and at times really exciting. I have to say that i do not know how good or bad I was on the mic but I can say I had a wonderful time and the producer was very happy with the way it all went. I do remember one disappointing aspect about the whole event and that was the number of spectators that we had.
I am delighted to say that the 6 programmes made it on to the air and was really well received.
Perhaps one of my fondest memories of Paralympic sport was the first of the Paralympic World Cup tournaments held in Manchester. It was back in 2005 that we all gathered at the Amaechi Centre in Manchester for the first Paralympic World Cup. I was involved as in-house commentator for the Wheelchair Basketball and to put it mildly it was simply AWESOME.
The PWC comprised 4 sports, Track Cycling, Athletics, Football and Wheelchair Basketball, both Men and Women. You can catch up with the Wheelchair Basketball events as they unfolded here.
I will concentrate on the final Men’s match of the Tournament. It was the Men’s Championship Game between Great Britain and Australia and it was simply sensational. With 3 seconds left in the game the Aussies were up by 3 and on their way to another Championship win over the old enemy. But nobody told GB star Terry Bywater who was at mid court with the ball in his hand. He launched the ball and there was a hushed silence as we all waited for the outcome.
It is GOOD! We are tied…OVERTIME!
You would think it couldn’t get any better than that but you would be wrong. With time running out the scores were tied, GB legend Ade Adepitan is on the ball on the right baseline puts it up for the win and MISSES! But there is a whistle. We are going to the line for 2. Ade misses the 1st but nails the second to give GB a Championship win over Australia.
A BBC producer who was present for this event told me that the was among her top 5 sporting events EVER!
When you consider that she had been to numerous Olympics, Paralympics, World Championship, World Cups etc, etc, etc you will know just how good this was.
In total I think I commentated at 4 or was it 5 Paralympic World Cups and I have to say I’ve had the time of my life.
I got to see some of the most talented athletes I have ever seen including Canadian superstars Patrick Anderson & Janet McLachlan and Matt Scott of the USA…WOW!
At a club level one of the most sensational players I have seen is former Iranian star, Amand D’Pour who used to play for Leeds’ Spiders. I am not sure if he still does.
The Wheelchair Basketball competition at London 2012 should be sensational.
Scott has long since retired but Anderson will be in London strutting his stuff, and there are other superstars who we should keep an eye out for.
GB will be looking to names like Simon Munn, Jon Pollock and aforementioned Terry Bywater to get it done for the Men.
On the Women’s side of things GB will be hoping that players like Caroline Maclean, Maddie Thompson and Clare Strange will take one of the medals in London.
Over the years I have become involved with other Paralympic sports including Goalball, Blind Football and my personal favourite Wheelchair Rugby.
My first taste of Wheelchair Rugby came at an event in Sheffield at the EISS. Read about it here.
I was hooked from the first whistle and I have loved it ever since.
For the past couple of years I have been raving about Wheelchair Rugby to anyone who would listen. I have mentioned it at every sporting event I have attended and I have predicted that this will be the Legacy sport of London 2012.
Now I might get that prediction wrong as it would seem that the nation has fallen in love with Handball. Well with no disrespect to Handball I put it to you that that is because the nation has yet to experience the joys that Wheelchair Rugby has to deliver.
Having said that maybe, just maybe we are in for not 1 but 2 Legacy sports from these Games.
There will be some famous names to look out for including Fabien Lavoie and Ian Chan from Canada and Mandip Sehmi & David Anthony from GB plus pin-up boy Tobias Sandberg of Sweden.
The USA will be there as will Japan, France, Australia and others.
Rumours are that most of the events at the London 2012 Paralympic Games are a sell out and some of these teams will be playing infront of their biggest crowds ever.
Let’s hope they live up to the hype.
By 4:30pm on Sunday the 9th of September one of these teams will lift the Gold medal for Wheelchair Rugby I hope it’s the start of something big for the sport.
Corrected & Updated 01/09/12
Originally published 22/08/12
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