After 5 years of waiting, the Tokyo Paralympics came and went. And what a show it was. So many spectacular stories of dedication and inspiration graced our screens. Although it was unsure whether these Games would take place, the 12 days of sport proved that these Games needed to happen.
Both the opening and closing ceremonies of this year’s paralympics were wondrous to behold. Although no audiences were allowed before, during or after these games, that didn’t seem to matter. The ceremonies were just as poignant and beautiful as previous games. The organisers of the Games have said that this event is more than just about sport. It is a way to draw attention to the 15% of the global population with impairments. The Paralympic Games does showcase some fantastic talent from across the globe, just as the Olympics does.
Many of the flag bearers of the opening ceremony had deep significance. Alia Issa, born in Greece after her family fled Syria, is the first woman on a refugee team. Abbas Karimi, a swimmer, and refugee who has lived in the U.S since 2016, is the only Afghan athlete at these games. The closing ceremony’s theme was ‘Harmonious Cacophony’. This included bright, beautiful lights and loud, technicolour music. The theme’s point was made particularly clear in this ceremony. There may be great differences in the world, but they are strengths, not weaknesses. By bringing everyone together, we can bring a better future.
The past year has shown us some truly beautiful, heartwarming moments in sport. And this year’s Games were no different. During the Men’s road race, Australia’s Stuart Jones noticed South Africa’s Toni Mould coming behind him. Mould was a whole lap behind in the women’s road race and was fighting to continue. Jones adjusted his speed to cycle along his fellow athlete, cheering her own. What a beautiful gesture.
Another beautiful moment was in the women’s 200m T11 final, which included Cape Verde sprinter Keula Nidreia Pereira Semedo and her guide Manuel Antonio Vaz da Veiga. These types of running events for the visually impaired include a guide who keeps pace with the athletes and steer them along the track. Athletes and their guide often form very close and intimate bonds. These two became favourites after the race, when Veiga proposed to Semedo. She thankfully said yes.
Team GB Success
ParalympicsGB demonstrated how even in the most challenging circumstances, incredible performances can still happen. Paralympics GB finished in 2nd place in the medal table, taking home 124 medals (41 gold, 38 silver and 45 bronze). Although fewer medals were won than in Rio 5 years ago, the target set during the home games of London 2021 was beaten by four medals. This was a spectacular show by Great British athletes that will be one for the history books. This year, the team won medals in more sports than ever before. 56% of athletes who made their debut at the Games won a medal as well as an all-time first with a golden win at wheelchair rugby.
Dame Sarah Storey made history and set in stone her position as the most successful Paralympian from the U.K ever. Sarah is now the very proud owner of 17 gold medals from 8 Games in both swimming and cycling.
New Kids On The Block
This was a Paralympics of extremely close calls. So many different events need the photo finish, which meant many new athletes were able to bask in Gold glory. One of the most talked-about races was the Men’s 100m T64 final. This was one of many races with a photo finish, but the difference between 1st and 2nd place was only 0.03 of a second. Germany’s Felix Streng won the gold, with a surprising silver for Sherman Guity from Costa Rica. Another great story from these Games was one from Maisie Summers-Newton, who won gold in both the 100m breaststroke SB6 and 200m medley SM6 finals. Maisie was originally inspired by her fellow athlete, Ellie Simmonds when she won gold at London.
Highs and Lows Of Sport
Jonnie Peacock, a well-known name in the U.K due to him being the two-time Olympic champion in the Men’s 100m T64 final. Jonnie was hoping to make history once again but ended up sharing the bronze medal position with a fellow athlete, Johannes Floors. Visibly disappointed in his post-race interview, Jonnie cited the support from home being one of the reasons he carried on in the sport. He was also quite reflective, speaking about his life outside of sport. Life does go on. Life isn’t just about sport. And it’s important to understand that. Jonnie went on to race in the Mixed 4x100m universal relay, in which he won silver with his teammates.
Ellie Simmonds, an athlete who has been one of the faces of Paralympicsgb for over 10 years, had an interesting Paralympics. The flag bearer during the opening ceremony, hopes were high for this bright talent who made her Paralympic debut back in 2008. Concluding this would be her last Games, Simmonds was emotional but thankful for the experience. Competing in four games, winning eight gold medals for her country, she hoped that she and her fellow athletes would carry on inspiring a new generation.
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