Colour me crazy but I found the Paralympics so much more satisfying as a spectacle than the Olympics.
I’m sure the Australian medal count has something to do with that, because I am just that shallow, but the whole enterprise was just bursting with great stories and good humour.
It took me a few nights to warm to the ABC’s panel of … what were they exactly? Comedians? … well, yes, actually. But, partly because Paralympians turn out to be a funny lot, and partly because Stephanie Brantz did a fantastic job of reigning the comics in and keeping them focused, the panel turned out to be note-perfect for the event.
The commentators at the sports were top-notch — Peter Wilkins, Peter Walsh, Quentin Hull and Gerry Collins were my picks — and a new star was born in Amanda Shalala who bounced around trackside. She knew her stuff, was bright and cheerful and conducted post-race interviews the Channel 9 clowns could learn a lot from if they ever bothered to watch the ABC.
The crowds were huge — well done the Brits.
But the athletes … damn, if you can’t see how good these people are at what they do, then you need to learn how to widen your gaze.
If Matthew Cowdrey had two good arms, he’d be pissing on James Magnussen from a great height, and I’m not just talking about from a performance point of view. He conducted himself humbly and graciously and eloquently … even when faced with the unnerving prospect of talking via Skype with his parents in front of the cameras.
Jacqui ‘Frenzy’ Freney, Ellie Cole, delightful young Maddison Elliot, Kurt Fearnly — who accepted the fact that it was arch rival David Weir’s day in the sun with a smile — the Rollers, Gliders and Steelers … all these people should be household names, and they should be gracing Nutri-Grain boxes and Telstra ads as much, if not more, frankly, than their able-bodied counterparts.
These are the athletes who throw themselves into their sports with gusto, talent, and a wondrous ability to ignore the titters and giggles and embarrassment of the able-bodied world which isn’t used to the sight of a swimmer with no arms head-butting the end of the pool just to register a time.
I can think of some able-bodied swimmers who would cruise to the wall gently for the sake of their sparkly, Aussie flag-adorned nails, for crying out loud.
It’s been a cracking couple of weeks of sport and stories and winning. Thank you, Paralympians, and thank you ABC.