As another Paralympic Games comes to a close, I have a little time to now reflect on being a part of it.The Winter Games are experiencing a really exciting time of growth, especially for us here in Great Britain.Unlike with the Summer Paralympics, there are a lot fewer sports; six rather than the twenty-two sports there were in Rio 2016. Wow, how was Rio two years ago already?
Four years in Sochi there were 5 sports, snowboarding was making its debut at a Paralympic level; a demonstration sport with two events (Men’s / Women’s visually impaired standing snowboard cross). This year there were 6 sports with Snowboarding now as a standalone event as opposed to being an alpine event. It’s not been 100% confirmed but looking ahead to Beijing 2022, it’s likely that Bobsleigh will join the Paralympic event schedule too!
The Winter Games are constantly growing, athlete participation increases year on year as does ticket sales, countries competing and support.On top of this, from a British perspective we competed in double the number of sports we did in Sochi 2014. Owen Pick, James Barnes Miller and Ben Moore all debuted at the Games in the snowboarding. We also had Scott Meenagh competing in every biathlon and cross country event; Something we haven’t seen at a games in 20 years.
Team GB didn’t fail to fulfil their ambitions either. ParalympicsGB set an optimistic target of seven medals and by the close of the Games, the team of seventeen had met this – even if they left it almost till the very last event!
We also decorated our most successful Winter Paralympian, Menna Fitzpatrick who took home 1 bronze, two silver and a gold.
Hopefully, with all this success we will see an increase in funding from the UK’s Sport Council and then come China in four years’ time, we will be celebrating even more British success and even more great sport.
Rio 2016 Paralympics were the third games that I was lucky enough to anchor for Channel 4. And it doesn’t get any less terrifying – the prospect of presenting a live sporting event for a major UK broadcaster is a daunting task. But it is also exhilarating. You are the person that is presenting coverage that matters, that people want to see – there isn’t anything quite like that feeling.
Between Ade Adepitan and I, we did 3 hours a day for the 11 days of the games, that’s 33 hours of live coverage on Channel 4. In the weeks, days and moments building up to going live again you wonder to yourself- will I be able to do this job well, do it justice and fingers crossed not look like a prat?
And then the sport begins… Once again you find yourself wrapped up in a celebration of pure greatness, you lose yourself in the atmosphere and there are no worries left about the job in hand, the anxieties, the doubts, it’s all about being a part of the movement you feed from the spirit of the games. The most important thing is the people – it’s what they achieve things that make you gasp in awe, but also bring you to tears of joy as you watch. A particular highlight for me, was a swimmer from Nepal with no arms finishing about a minute behind the pack but no one cared because the support from the crowd, the noise caused by the cheering almost raised the roof! He tried and he succeeded. And we loved him for it.
So as I sit on our aeroplane flying home having time to reflect upon where the last two weeks have gone. There’s no better feeling than coming away from these games watched by the world knowing that you have been, in part, responsible for helping change people’s lives. It’s a feeling of complete euphoria.
And we really have help people change their perspectives – RJ Mitty put it beautifully in saying that “the Paralympics encapsulates all that is great about the human spirit, when people are broken and presented with huge challenges we have the chance to see what we as humans are capable of and its awe inspiring. In watching how others deal with issues that to most would seem insurmountable the Paralympians give people the strength to believe in themselves and motivate them to improve their quality of life. “
So would I ever present the Paralympics again???
Silly question really. Where do I sign? J I might be a bag of nerves those moments before we go live, but I wouldn’t pass up such an overwhelmingly incredible journey. It is hands down, one of the most rewarding things I’ve done to date.