With all the doom and gloom happening seemingly everywhere, I’ve been looking for instances of happiness and positivity whenever I can. One area that’s been encouraging to me recently are the 2020 Paralympic Games happening over in Tokyo right now.
I’d always known about the Paralympic Games, but I never actually watched any of the competitions. For one thing, I wasn’t sure how to see any of them. Watching the Olympic Games is something you’d have to hide under a rock to avoid, when the Olympics are on. They’re all over the news, all over television, and people talk about them all the time. But they last for a couple of weeks, and I think by the end of that, most people are ready to move on from the whole sports thing. Plus, who can remember when the Paralympics start? They’re just not talked about at all.
Lucky for me, YouTube TV makes watching the Paralympics wicked easy to watch. I can just go in and tell it to DVR anything having to do with the Paralympics, and it does it for me automatically. I don’t need to know what channel they’re on or what time the events are playing. (And there’s no need to worry about spoilers, because as I said, no one’s talking about these in my day to day life.) Then when I want to watch something, I bring up the DVR’d events and choose something to check out.
So far I’ve watched wheelchair basketball, a wheelchair 5k, various swimming events (some with participants who were blind, some who were missing limbs), goal ball (a court sport for the blind, where they roll a ball with bells inside it across the court, hoping to score on the other side), and sitting volleyball. I’ve found all of them inspirational, watching people do things so far beyond what I can do, even when facing difficulties unlike anything I’ve had to face.
Take swimming blind. It seems like it shouldn’t be that big of a deal when you first think of it. You don’t need your eyes to swim, after all, right? But how do you know when the wall’s coming? When you’re swimming as fast as you can, do you just remember how many strokes it takes to go 50m? In practice, it turns out the swimmers tuck themselves close to the cordons that rope off the different lanes, to ensure they’re going straight. Then they have assistants who stand on either end of the pool with long wands. When the swimmer gets close, they tap them on the back at a predetermined distance, letting them know the wall’s almost there.
I watched a swimmer from Turkey swimming with no arms. She used a dolphin kick to churn through the water, turning over to her side now and then to take a breath. Swimming like that for 200m? I couldn’t believe it.
When I was on my mission in Germany, I played wheelchair basketball once a week with members of the German national team. I don’t know which missionaries got us involved in that, but it was a great experience. The men were a lot of fun to be around, and they were all much much better athletes than I’ll ever be. Those wheelchairs crashed into each other all the time. People were falling out of them and getting back in on their own. Shooting a basketball when you can’t use your legs (and you’re about 2.5 feet farther away) is really difficult. It all gave me a very different view of disabilities and how people with them view themselves and others. (Not that I’m saying I understand even a fraction of what it’s like, but at least it was a start.)
Anyway. I just wanted to pass the recommendation on while the games are still going. If you have access to any of the coverage, I encourage you to check some of it out. The regular Olympics have a lot of trappings that go with them. People who succeed in them become superstars, though I still love watching the underdogs do things no one thought they’d be able to. The Paralympics feel like watching people who are competing just because they love competing.
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