Blogs (Paralympics)

Something very special is going to happen in 500 days' time predicts IPC President

Tom_Degun_head_and_shouldersHave a conversation with Sir Philip Craven and you could easily be forgiven for not immediately comprehending that you are in the presence of the most powerful figure in Paralympic sport.

The 60-year-old from Bolton has such a strong North West accent and speaks in so relaxed a manner that you almost get the feeling you are speaking with an old friend in the garden of your favorite country pub.

However, once you get Sir Philip talking on the topic Paralympic sport, his demeanor changes and his obvious passion for the subject quickly betrays the fact that he is not only President of the International Paralympic Committee (IPC), but also a member of the International Olympic Committee (IOC), one of the senior figures sitting on the London 2012 Board and a former wheelchair basketball star who represented Great Britain in no less than five editions of the Paralympic Games from 1972 to 1988.

"I need to make sure I don't burn out if I'm to win at London 2012" says Woods

By Katy Anderson

Katy_Anderson_croppedFirst, Shelly Woods admits she was talent spotted as a thrower; hard to believe, but not entirely unbelievable - enough to raise a smile, though.

Then she details her changeable coaching history, briefly mentioning her previous tendency to over-train, a potentially cruel flip side to absolute dedication and motivation.

And then of course there's her performance record; Beijing Paralympic Games silver and bronze medallist, IPC World Championships bronze medallist, T54 1500 metres world record holder, multiple British Record holder and one of the most experienced members of the current crop of Aviva Great Britain and Northern Ireland Paralympic athletes.

Pistorious: I'm not untouchable – not by a long shot

By Tom Degun in Christchurch

Tom_Degun_in_Christchurch_Jan_19Being Oscar Pistorius, I imagine, must be quite weird.

To Paralympic sport, the South African is Usain Bolt, David Beckham and Tiger Woods all rolled into one.

He is still just 24 years old but the double-leg amputee, commonly referred to as the "Blade Runner" due to the shape of his prosthetic legs, is already a four-time Paralympic gold medallist and the poster boy of every event he competes in.

"Sparrow" aims to lead rivals a merry dance at IPC World Athletics Championships

By Katy Anderson

Katy_Anderson_Jan_10Many words are used in association with the old party classic The Birdie Dance but performance - certainly of a credible or "world class" nature - isn't one of them.

While imitation may be one of the finest forms of flattery, in Katrina Hart's case, it's a definite coincidence because in reality, the "Sparrow Dance" is far more endearing than its aged counterpart.

"I want to bow out on my own terms and end on a high" claims Du Toit

By Tom Degun

Tom_Degun_for_Big_ReadOf all the world's many famous Paralympians, it is South African swimming sensation Natalie du Toit who is the most recognisable and, at just 26 years-
old, the 10-time Paralympic champion has already achieved more than most athletes have in a lifetime.

Du Toit was born in Cape Town in South Africa and spent her entire young life there where she attended Wynberg Girls' High School, an institution renowned for its strong sporting reputation.

Growing up, it was soon very clear that Du Toit was unusually talented in the sport of swimming and at just 14 she began competing internationally. A host of swimming experts felt certain that South Africa had a future Olympic champion on their hands and that the young girl from Cape Town could be the sport's next big star. But not long after her 17th birthday, one day in March 2001 dramatically altered the future of Natalie du Toit.

Medals alone don’t motivate me, says Paralympic star Rushgrove

By Katy Anderson

"It’s a silver car for a silver medal - the only car in Bath to go through the gates of Buckingham Palace!,” claims Ben Rushgrove.

He is, of course, referring to his podium finish in the Beijing Paralympic Games in 2008 in the T36 100m which, along with other members of Team GB, was rewarded with a visit to the Queen’s official residence.

Rushgrove says medals alone don’t motivate him but with just two months to go until the IPC Athletics World Championships in Christchurch, New Zealand, such an achievement is surely on his mind?

Even for a Paralympian, the tale of Anne Olympia Wafula Strike is truly astonishing

By Tom Degun

One of the trademarks of Paralympic sport is that practically all the participating athletes have an inspiring story to tell. In no-able bodied sport do you hear such an abundance of dramatic tales which see individuals face the greatest of adversities and come out the other side as heroes.

But even by Paralympic standards, the story of the remarkable Anne Olympia Wafula Strike, a Kenyan-born wheelchair racer who now competes for Great Britain, is unbelievable.

I feel I will do her path through life very little justice in the next few sentences but it is fitting to give you an overview of probably the most inspiring tale I have heard.

He's here, he's there, he's everywhere - Ade Adepitan on his new role as the face of Channel 4's Paralympic coverage

By Tom Degun

Sometimes I find it hard to believe there is only one Ade Adepitan because he appears to be absolutely everywhere at the moment.

The energetic 37-year-old, who barely looks half his age, is either appearing on the television, talking on the radio or pictured beaming up from newspapers and magazines across the country.

And if that wasn’t enough for the former Great Britain wheelchair basketball star, Adepitan is also on the front cover of the new BT Phone Book for the London area.

All this on top of the fact that Adepitan is now a professional wheelchair tennis player competing at elite level and you begin to wonder where he finds the time to sleep.

Esther Vergeer's dominance ranks her alongside Pele, Woods and Bolt

Perhaps once in a generation, an athlete will emerge in a given sport with such remarkable talent, outrageous ability and magnificent skill that they are simply rendered peerless in their discipline.

Despite the valiant efforts of their closest rivals, this special individual will dominate competition to such an extent that they are perceived as being invincible.

It is indeed very rare to create such an aura but those who have done so will be forever immortalised in the mythical halls of sporting greatness.

Legendary Brazilian football Pele is one to have achieved the feat as was his Argentinean heir apparent Diego Maradona. More recently, golfing star Tiger Woods and tennis icon Roger Federer have scaled the peaks of greatness before slightly descending from those dizzying heights in the past year while, in athletics, Jamaican sprint king Usain Bolt looks destined to join the list of legends after destroying his rivals so badly that they may never recover.

Chris Holmes out to make history again at London 2012

Spend any time at the home of the London Organising Committee and you quickly learn this is a world governed by acronyms.

So there's LOCOG (the London Organising Committee of the Olympic Games and Paralympic Games) and OCOGs (Organising Committees of the Olympic Games), the IOC (International Olympic Committee) and  IPC (International Paralympic Committee), IBC (International Broadcast Centre),MPC (Main Press Centre) and ABC.  Well maybe not ABC, an American broadcasting company, but you get my point.

So it comes as something of a relief to discover Chris Holmes, Director of Paralympic Integration, has a title not easily shortened (then again DOPI could catch on) and a remit that's pretty easy to understand.

Smyth concentrating on track despite looming history

By Tom Degun

When it comes to the Paralympics, there are so many thousands of inspirational stories to tell that it becomes almost an impossible task to report all of the bravery, courage and determination that every athlete displays by overcoming their disability to compete on the biggest stage in sport.

Instead, the media select a small group of Paralympic athletes or simply a special individual whose name we regularly hear on the radio or see on television and in newspapers because they are considered extraordinary even by Paralympian standards.

For the last few years, that individual has been South African star Oscar Pistorius and the engrossing tale told is of whether the "Blade Runner" will do the unthinkable of qualifying for the Olympics as well as the Paralympics at London 2012.

Paralympics is not second-grade version of able-bodied sports claims Pistorius

By Tom Degun

At just 23-years-old, Oscar Leonard Carl Pistorius is already the most recognisable Paralympic athlete on the planet and a true sporting phenomenon. The South African sprint sensation already has four Paralympic gold medals to his name as well as three world records in the T44 100, 200 and 400 metres.

And amongst his numerous other feats, the superstar from Johannesburg is on the verge of becoming the first male athlete in history to compete in both the Olympics and Paralympics when the Games are held in London in 2012.

With such an impressive list of accolades, I was expecting to encounter a rather arrogant character ahead of my first face-to-face meeting with Paralympic icon. I was therefore slightly taken aback when I encountered an extremely humble and softly spoken man when Oscar and I sat down to talk in a spacious suite at the City of Manchester Stadium.

Registering vital support for the inaugural Warrior Games

By Mike Rowbottom

John Register is at the heart of the inaugural Warrior Games, for US servicemen left wounded or traumatised by warfare, which have got underway at the United States Olympic Committee (USOC) base in Colorado Springs this week.

Register, who now works as an inspirational public speaker on the subject of maximising life experiences despite disability, has lost his left leg - not as a result of his involvement in the Desert Shield and Desert Storm campaigns for the US Army during the first Gulf War, but through a freak training accident in 1994 as he worked towards qualifying in the 400 metres hurdles at the 1996 Olympics in Atlanta.

Simmonds enjoys the fame but not as much as swimming

By Tom Degun

Ellie Simmonds freely admits that she found the aftermath of the Beijing 2008 Paralympics more than a little strange. Afterall, superstardom is something one would perhaps expect to acquire after many years of striving hard for it. For the girl from the West Midlands however, the spotlight was simply thrust upon her before she even knew what was happening.

It was the grandest stage of all that showcased her talents to the world but in August 2008, Simmonds boarded a plane to Chinese capital as the youngest member of the ParalympicsGB team and just another face in the crowd.

Weir prepares for another crack at his least favourite rival in London

By Mike Rowbottom

Few wheelchair marathons finishes have matched the drama of last year’s men’s race in London, where Australia’s Paralympic champion Kurt Fearnley clenched his fist in triumph as he crossed the line in a course record of 1hour 28min 56sec, just one second ahead of the Briton who had won the previous three races, David Weir.

Weir insists there are probably five or six potential winners among the top class field who have the potential to win this year’s event in the capital.

That field, belatedly assembled following the flight problems created by the inconvenient eruption of one of Iceland’s smaller volcanoes, includes former London winners Denis Lemeunier of France and Saul Mendoza of Mexico, as well as the holder of the world’s fastest time, Ernst Van Dyk of South Africa.