My record attempt at the Games

Eight sports, eight arenas, one day.

Could it be done? Should it be done? Hell, there was only one way to find out. With an access all areas pass for these Paralympic Games, and most of the Irish team on a day off after their treasure-hunt at the weekend, it seemed rude not to at least try.

Now, there is an element of tempting fate in all of this. Yesterday’s list of Irish competitors may have been light but many a journalist has hatched the same plan at Olympic Games only to get the call to scramble because of some unexpected medal or scandal.

There was also the realisation that you were exposing yourself to an almost inevitable world of frustration: a day of snatched trains and meals, wrong directions, fussy volunteers (a rarity, admittedly) and a collection of very unsightly sweat patches.

It was still too good an opportunity to miss.

We’ve all emptied a day of plans and purpose to watch wall-to-wall sport in our time but it is one thing to unbuckle the belt after a good Sunday dinner and reach for the remote and quiet another entirely to catch them all in the flesh.

Where do you even start?

Events had to be crosschecked with venues, times and public transport timetables but eventually the plan took shape. First up was the wheelchair basketball at the North Greenwich Arena, then four sports in the cavernous ExCel, before a final sweep through Olympic Park.

Not so much planes, trains and automobiles as tubes, DLRs, double deckers and who knows how many miles on foot.

By the end, we’d witnessed world records, Paralympic records, gold, silver and bronze medal-winning performances, blind women diving at footballs with bells inside, armless swimmers, legless volleyball players and two Scottish boccia-playing, Celtic supporting brothers with muscular dystrophy.

What you come to realise the further you delve into the Paralympics and it’s component parts is that it is sport’s version of an international food court. You go along for a burger or pasta but before long you’re eyeing up that Lebanese dish or the Cambodian noodles. The more exotic, the more unfamiliar and frankly bizarre, the better.

Yesterday was a day to be greedy, a day to partake from every plate. From Patrick Anderson’s sublime individual performance for Canada against Colombia in the wheelchair basketball to Michael McKillop’s run in the T37 1,500m final almost 12 hours later, it was a feast fit for a king but the back stories were as impressive as the backdrops and performances.

Take Anderson. A regular Canadian kid from Edmonton who was mad for ice hockey and any other sport that you might care to mention before he was struck by a drunk driver at the age of nine and lost his legs below the knee. He discovered wheelchair basketball a year later and came to London as one of the finest exponents his sport has ever seen.

Anderson’s tale would be exceptional anywhere other than the Paralympic Games. Here, it just one of over 4,000 inspirational tales of triumph over adversity and all of which led to packed and appreciative arenas in London this week and last.

Flitting between them all in such a fashion isn’t exactly the ideal way to digest the whole experience. It’s like the guy flicking between the GAA, the footy and the Formula 1 at home — terrified of missing something and missing pretty much everything.

Sports just aren’t meant to be devoured like sweets at Christmas. After a while, the eyes tend to glaze over — nowhere more so than at the table tennis, where the gold and bronze matches were played simultaneously — and you soon find yourself willing for something to grab you and really root you to your seat.

Eventually, something did.

When the blisters heel and London and the Games finally part ways, the one memory that will outlast the rest from this day is that of Nigeria’s Folashade Oluwafemiayo and China’s Taoying Fu breaking each other’s world record times and again in the women’s powerlifting at the ExCel South Arena 3.

That and the cold beer afterwards.

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