Sunday, 7 August 2016

Superlative Superhuman Olympians

Have you seen the  Channel 4 Meet The Superhumans trailer for the Paralympic Games?   if not have a look at the link below and prepare to have your mind blown, your flabb gasted and your dumb founded by mere mortals performing awesome feats - occasionally without feets and other body parts.   (click link on left for trailer)

The only sport i excelled at was cheque bouncing. games of any sort, Olympic or otherwise, tend to roll over me without a great deal of interest. though i admit to becoming caught up in the the emotion and drama of the opening and closing ceremonies in 2012 and appreciating the subtle, or not so in the case of Danny Boyle's paean to the NHS,  politicising that goes on, but when it comes to  the sport itself.....nah, not bothered. perhaps a childhood sense of shame rumbles away in the depths of my schoolgirl soul for "letting the side down" as i always hobbled  last, by several laps, over finishing lines.  i suffered education in an age when disability wasn't accepted as a reason for not participating in sports, no matter that the emotional fallout of constant failure, the imposition of pain on a child with surgery scars the length of her legs, the harassing and tongue lashing of a recently hospitalised pupil would be considered abusive today.
Dan Brooke who oversaw the ad is quoted as saying "We wanted to say any disabled person can be a superhuman."   agreed !!    for many of us with chronic illness getting out of bed every morning and facing the world with a smile requires a cape and a hefty dose of arachnid venom, though i don't think that's quite what he had in mind. Sam Ruddock the track and field athlete echoed the sentiment when he said "if we can do this, there is no reason anyone else can''s about a positive attitude."   

Now, i'm all for positivity, and have plenty of attitude after particularly bad nights, but i'm also a pragmatist and with all the will power, bloody mindedness and dedication in the world there are some who can and some who can't.  otherwise it's akin to expecting an able bodied, fubsy, five footer to run like Usain Bolt without being endowed with those legs of his that reach from the bottom to the bottom. when did you last hear an able bodied Olympian suggest that the rest of the population could attain Gold on the podium if they only tried a little harder.   if everybody could do it there would be no need to sponsor athletes or build Olympic Villages. football stadia would be obsolete as we would all be budding Beckhams, transport companies would be bankrupt and bank accounts would blossom as hordes of proles marathoned their way to work leaving the grind of the commute behind.

That we elevate these amazing athletes to superherodom isn't surprising as what they achieve is truly mind boggling, but i'd like to speak for the 99.9% who never had a hope of reaching those rarefied heights since not all damage can be surmounted by a positive attitude, not all maladies have an outward manifestation, not all disabilities are equal.   

When you see somebody in a wheelchair please don't see a failed Paralympian lacking the moral and physical fibre necessary to overcome gravity.   when a friend or colleague with an invisible illness drops out of a social event AGAIN don't assume they are being weak, lazy or lacking enterprise.   when a family member with chronic pain quietly leaves Sunday lunch early to rest don't see it as a rejection..... 

.....unless, of course, you too are prepared to expend the Herculean energies necessary to live the life of a superhero.

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