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I wish I were in the happy circumstance of being able to throw a party for Team GB’s Olympians and Paralympians. They have certainly been an inspiration.

As I write, Paralympian David Weir has just been presented with a Gold for the T54 5000m wheelchair race which I saw on Sunday. A formidable performance it was, too. Weir’s spine has been twisted since birth.

This is what Weir had to say before the Paralympics began:

We’re here for one reason: to win medals. With the structure we now have in place, and integrated Olympic/Paralympic training camps and coaches, everything is about elite performance. Medals create funding which will create legacy. These Games – my fourth – are the pinnacle of my career …

If I end up best in one discipline, I see that as success. The Paralympic experience started for me as a 17 year-old in Atlanta in 1996 but I’ve never been to a Paralympics where they’ve sold millions of tickets like this. No one has. It will be unique. The British public has embraced the Paralympic Games like no nation in history ever has.

As athletes, we have a duty to respond to that. I know the Olympics have been packed but seeing that atmosphere in the stadium with everyone supporting the British athletes sent a message to every Paralympian watching.

As a wheelchair track sprinter I couldn’t help but feel the tingles down my spine seeing how the British public reacted to Mo Farah in the stadium. That buzz will draw something extra out of you.

I think people are curious as to how we race but of all the sports, wheelchair racing has probably had the most exposure, other sports, like blind football and wheelchair rugby, are going to thrive in the spotlight. The GB athletics team will also show a marked improvement on the performance overall in Beijing. We won two gold medals.

With a great structure in place since Beijing under the UK Athletics head of performance Peter Eriksson we have made a massive leap forward.

Team GB discus thrower Aled Davies won Gold on Sunday, September 2. He was delighted to be the first athlete to receive his medal from the Duchess of Cambridge. The Telegraph reported:

He knew he was guaranteed a gold medal, so when Aled Davies launched his final discus throw, he could barely wait for it to land before taking off on a lap of honour that brought the Olympic Stadium to its feet.

Davies, already a bronze medal winner in the shot put, wheeled away in delight after breaking the European record with his last throw, then draped himself in a Union flag and declared himself “the happiest man on the planet”.

His gold medal in the F42 final meant Great Britain’s track and field athletes had surpassed the medal tally they achieved in Beijing after just two and a half days of competition.

Davies, 21, wears a brace on his right leg after he was born with a condition which means that it does not function properly. He could barely control his emotion as he turned to the crowd and held his hands aloft in delight …

After his win Davies said: “I am probably the happiest guy on the planet right now. It was a tough competition. But I dug deep. Four years of hard work for this – it’s nice to give something back to everyone. This crowd is incredible” …

“Sometimes I’m calm, sometimes I get aggressive. I was going head–to–head with the Iranian guy [Mehrdad Karam Zadeh] who I’ve been in competition with for some time.

“He threw well in the first round and I thought ‘I can do better than that’. And then I threw better.”

The Welshman’s road to glory began when he was 13. As he watched the Paralympics on television, he realised that some of the athletes had the same disability as h[e].

Growing up in Wales, Davies didn’t consider himself disabled and competed in able-bodied swimming events locally. It was whilst watching the Paralympic coverage in 2004 that he felt inspired to compete on a larger scale.

The Telegraph article described David Weir’s thrill at winning his 5000m race:

The 33–year–old Londoner threw his arms in the air, punching the air as he crossed the finish line and the crowd leapt to its feet, roaring its delight.

Weir, who holds every British record in all track distances up to 5,000m, as well as on the road at 10km, half marathon, and marathon, cannot move his legs after his spine was twisted at birth …

“You will never ever forget something like that,” he said. “I have had dreams of going on the rostrum – I don’t really dream about race plans, I do that on the day – but I have dreamed about 80,000 people singing the national anthem.”

Other Team GB track and field Paralympian medal winners include:

Stefanie Reid, whose leg was amputated, took silver in the long jump; Graeme Ballard, 32, who has cerebral palsy and epilepsy, won silver in the T36 100m final and Libby Clegg, 22, who is partially sighted, took silver in the T12 100m.

Clegg was cheered on by her brother James, 18. Hours earlier James, who has the same condition, won bronze in the S12 100m butterfly.

Ballard had considered quitting athletics after the Beijing Games, when his funding was cut.

Reid, a biochemist, played a lot of sport and was devastated when she caught her leg in the motor of a boat at the age of 16. Her leg required amputation below the knee. A no-nonsense hospital nurse in Canada encouraged Reid to get out of her funk and get on with life:

Recognising her competitive spirit, she told Reid that a younger girl in another ward had lost both legs and was sitting up smiling.

The girl did not exist, but the nurse’s white lie did the trick and spurred Reid to recovery. “She helped me realise I could still be competitive, I just had to channel it in different ways.”

Reid, whose parents are British, represented Canada, where she grew up, before switching to Team GB.

Whether our Paralympians were born with their disabilities or incurred them later, they have all been overcomers. Teenage Paralympians are studying hard in secondary school. Older athletes have completed university and/or are combining careers with family life. They continue to train and compete between Games.

Sport might not be the answer for everyone. However able-bodied or differently abled we are, though, we can derive inspiration from the Paralympians’ lives and performances.

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