ParalympicsGB travel to Brazil with a huge weight of expectation as well as excitement around them. Paralympians devote their lives to the genuinely hard graft of a relentless training regime just for a shot at glory that might last for just a few brief seconds; it’s that which makes the Games so utterly tantalising.
By Tom Jamison
The Paralympics provides great sporting moments and inspiration to millions of people around the world and no doubt this year the Games will again deliver.
Our Paralympic preview tells it from the people involved, the athletes, who were mostly, at the time of writing, awaiting decisions on selection. It’s incredible how sports can inspire and bring out truly great things in people. Here then, is a selection of the opinions, wisdom, experience, hope, inspiration – and a few predictions, from those in the know.
Let the Games begin!
Is sport for me?
You don’t have to do sport to the level that we (Paralympians) do – by any means. I was quite a shy person and didn’t really deal well in social situations at all and I found getting into sport encouraged me to talk with people and to enjoy being with people. That social aspect was crucial as well. – Neil Fachie, Cycling
I didn’t try any sport until I was 19. But now sport’s taking me to Rio – it’s amazing! – Hannah Dines, Cycling
The only reason I’m here today is because I didn’t say no to any of the opportunities that were passed to me. So I would just say to anyone, you never know what could happen. – Grace Clough, Rowing
I’d say it’s best to give it a go. If something doesn’t work, try something different – I jumped around until this particular discipline found me. It doesn’t have to be this huge jump, it could simply be about becoming active regularly in a way that suits you. It’s about finding your place.
Participation isn’t just about being an athlete, it’s about being involved. – Vanessa Daobry, Athletics
I watched Lora in the tandem event at London 2012 and thought ‘this is something that looks really good, and I’d love to be involved’. The opportunity to ride the tandem came up and it was too good to miss. – Corinne Hall, Cycling
It seems crazy now that I’m doing this and going to Rio. At school, when London won the 2012 bid I knew that I could classify for parasports but I didn’t know that I would be good enough to do it.
I didn’t actually think that I could make it a reality – and then it was – thanks to the SportsFest. – Grace Clough, Rowing
You just have to forget about the negatives and focus on the positives. You can’t get anywhere if you’re just going to be negative, you’ve just got to get on with it and accept your situation for what it is and make the best of it. – Lora Turnham, cycling
Arrogance is when you don’t care about what other people think and I’m definitely not that sort of person. I care about the people around me and actually boccia’s quite a team sport and there really is no place for arrogance. – David Smith, Boccia
I try to represent myself in the best way I possibly can by staying composed and being polite to people when they speak to me; all of those sorts of things – the way you carry yourself. That’s the best lesson I can give to anybody else I suppose.
Let’s just try to represent the British public in the best way we can. – Sam Ingram, Judo
I wasn’t looking to become an elite athlete. I thought of it as physio and something to help with my moods. You need to surround yourself with positive people to encourage you. I like to reframe everything so if I have a bad day – I’ll look at it and say ‘if this didn’t happen, I wouldn’t be where I am now’. – Megan Giglia, Cycling
I feel that it is every athlete’s responsibility to make sure that you are inspiring the next generation. – Helene Raynsford, Rowing
I think if we put on the shows and events, people will come and I think that the attitude has changed enormously but I still think the organisers have to go a long way to produce more grassroots opportunities. – Sophia Warner, Equestrian
(I help people with) thinking about decision making and the thought processes behind things; what their goals are and maybe looking at using my experiences and maybe their experiences – just trying to kick through it and help them make decisions for the future they want. – Steve Brown, Wheelchair rugby
I have always wanted to be the best that I can be, and that just so happened to involve winning gold medals. It is difficult being at the top as nothing less than gold is a success in my eyes. I would still put pressure on myself rather than external sources. However, it is managing this pressure that is the key to success. – Sophie Christiansen, Equestrian
We know we’ve got to get out there and do what we know we’re capable of. We’ve beaten all of these guys before and we know we can do it again so it’s just a case of going out there and doing our best and hopefully that’ll get us a gold medal at the end of it. – Adam Duggleby, Cycling
With winning comes pressure because people expect you to win (more) and also you expect yourself to win but if you just try to stay grounded that’s the best way to go into it. If you just think that all the pressure’s on you then that kind of overtakes your mind and you’re probably going to lose anyway – so it’s best just to keep that to one side really. – Jordanne Whiley, Wheelchair tennis.
If both of us (teammate Corrine and I) are happy, we are much quicker on our bike – definitely! – Lora Turnham, Cycling
You do need to test these things because if you just back-off every time something is a little bit painful then you’ll not progress or move forward.
You need to try to determine the difference between different types of pain – it’s knowing and understanding what you’re actually feeling and sometimes you don’t know that until you’ve experienced different types of pain. – Libby Clegg, Athletics
Sometimes you’ve got to work with your body. You might not be able to do a training session one day but then on the next you do the most amazing thing you’ve ever done. – Karen Darke, Cycling
How does it feel to pull on the GB kit?
It is the best job in the world, win or lose (to a certain extent). I love riding my bike. – Pete Mitchell, Cycling
It’s hard work but it really is worth every minute and every sacrifice. It’s fab! – Vanessa Daobry, Athletics
It’s great. It’s a real honour and I can’t wait to wear it (the GB kit) in Rio because I’ve not done it at a Paralympics – I’m really excited about that. – Sophie Thornhill, Cycling
I’ve not been involved in parasports for long. My first Great Britain vest was this year in the London Marathon. It makes you speechless. It’s fine to talk about it but when you actually sit and think about what’s going on, it’ very surreal – I never imagined it. Six years ago (in June) I had my accident and never in a month of Sundays did I ever expect to be running for Scotland which was an honour, so running for Great Britain was amazing. – Derek Rae, Athletics
I’m super excited… You can never take it for granted; some races go your way and some don’t. I do what I do because I love riding my bike and I want to be the best that I can at it. It’s a privilege. – Karen Darke, Cycling
I love what I do but there are days when you kind of wish you weren’t doing it. There’s a lot of pain involved in training day-in, day-out. Sometimes you feel rough for it but it certainly beats an office job and I wouldn’t change it for the world. – Neil Fachie, Cycling
Breaking my neck affects my balance but also my strength and my movement so all down my right side I’m a lot weaker which is quite a disadvantage because on a horse everything should be level so it’s difficult.
I do ride with looped reins because I don’t have the grip that I should have and that makes it a bit easier to hold the reins without dropping them. – Heather Bennett, Equestrian
I’m a road racer. You have to race in a bunch and it’s all about the eye-contact and watching what people are doing. – Hannah Dines, Cycling
There have been plenty of challenges, including the simplest things like holding the reins, because of my missing fingers. It can get a bit tricky but the horses have got used to it and so have the judges! – Sophie Wells, Equestrian
(When I started) I tied my foot to the pedal and tied my hand to the handlebars. When you want to get something done you just utilise anything. You can learn to adapt and eventually progress. – Megan Giglia, Cycling
Lessons from London
I’m never happy unless I win gold. I wasn’t happy with winning three silvers (at London 2012). I didn’t do anything wrong and I didn’t make any mistakes. The lesson I learnt is that I don’t like losing! – Jon-Allan Butterworth, Cycling
London was my first Paralympics and it’s true what they say in that you can never truly prepare for it until you’ve been (to one). I’ve been preparing for the last few years to be honest and I feel more ready for this one than I did for London. – Stephen McGuire, Boccia
London didn’t go to plan for me so what I learned is that you can focus all you want on winning that gold medal – but it isn’t the be all and end all. Life doesn’t end, as I sort of thought it might and you’ve still got other opportunities. You can only control what you do so instead of focussing on the outcomes, focus on the process. – Lora Turnham, Cycling
Can ParalympicsGB beat their performance in London 2012?
There’s every possibility that we could match it. As long as we go out there and do the job that we’re supposed to do I think we’ll achieve our targets. That vibe went through the whole (athletes’) village (at London 2012) whereby there was an expectation that all athletes had to ‘stand up’. – Scot Quinn, Swimming
I’d like to think so. The guys we have around now have a massive amount of experience and there are people coming up like myself and Megan Giglia. There’s a really good mix. There’s lots of enthusiasm around at the moment. – Steve Bate, Cycling
On crossing the finish line of the women’s road time trial H1–2 at London 2012 holding hands with Rachel Morris.
It was a momentary decision to do that. There are things relating to that that no one else knows about or needs to know about. It was a good decision and the right decision and I’m happy with it. I know it upset a lot of people at the time: most of the men in my life were pretty angry and said that I should have ridden on and tried to win the medal. It generated a lot of response and a lot of emotion amongst people and just afterwards I kind of wobbled a little bit if I’d made the right decision but no, I’m happy with it and I’ve never regretted it. – Karen Darke, cycling
On throwing down his helmet and swearing after being disqualified at London 2012.
It’s my John McEnroe moment! It’s that bit that everybody remembers for all the wrong reasons – but it’s been a great thing. I kind of ‘took one’ for parasport: instead of it being perceived as just disabled guys turning up – it was then: actually these guys train as hard as anybody else and they want it just as much as anyone. It took my outburst for that to come through. – Jody Cundy, cycling
We’ve got another guy on our team, Gordon Reid, who’s from Scotland and I would say that he’s a medal hopeful for Rio; he won the Australian Open singles title. Me and him are the medal hopefuls for Rio. – Jordanne Whiley, Wheelchair tennis
You can’t write off the reigning Paralympic Champion, (Yasuhiro) Tanaka (Japan) in the 100m breaststroke and you’ve got the reigning World Champion, Marc Evers (The Netherlands) and Marco Koch (Germany), the European Champion this year and then you’ve got another British athlete, Aaron Moores who’s the World Record holder and number one in the world – so it’s anyone’s game.
I’m hoping it’s going to be an event for everyone to enjoy. The S14 100m breaststroke is going to be quite tough but then all of the S14’s are going to be quite tough. – Scot Quinn, Swimming
In terms of boccia we’ve got half an eye on Brazil. They’re the home country and reigning Paralymmpic Champions. They’re the ones to watch. They beat us in London. They knocked me out in the semi-final so it’ll be good to get one over on them. You can’t rule out the eastern countries at the moment either: Hong Kong and China – they’ve got some fantastic athletes. – Stephen McGuire, Boccia
You’ve got an array of probably 12 athletes who are all fighting for their spot (for ParalympicsGB) but we’re certainly going to have some strong contenders for gold medals in Jody Cundy and Sarah Storey especially – and we’ve got some great C2 and C3 athletes who are all fighting for their places. Certainly the tandem stokers that we have are all proven medallists – If you’re a betting man, I would certainly look to put something on the GB Paracycling team winning a medal in almost every category – from C2, C3, C4, C5 up to the tandems and certainly then in terms of the track – we’re going to have a successful Games across the board. I would say four, maybe five golds with proven athletes such as Sarah Storey, Jody Cundy and Jon-Allan Butterworth who is getting stronger. – Mark Colbourne, Cycling
What makes a Paralympian?
It’s that inherent talent and ability. It’s a lot of hard work… Selection decisions are made very carefully to assess individual athletes as to whether they’re ready – let alone if they’ve made the criteria – are they ready to deliver at the Games? – Penny Briscoe, Chef de Mission