London 2012 Paralympic Games: Inspiring the World
Given the audience, the motto for the London 2012 Paralympic Games—"inspire a generation"— should have been "inspire the world." Several billion television viewers tuned in, and more than 2.5 million tickets were sold to spectators who traveled to London's Olympic Stadium to watch 4,280 athletes from 166 countries compete in 20 sports. The Games, billed by some as the greatest Paralympics ever, came to a close September 9 with a ceremony that included performances by acrobats, dancers, and musicians; appearances by dignitaries and royalty; and a fireworks display. Over the course of 11 days of competition, 251 world records were set.
The United States Paralympic team included 229 athletes with physical disabilities or visual impairment who came home with 98 total medals: 31 gold, 29 silver, and 38 bronze. U.S. athletes won the majority of their medals in track and field and swimming events—29 percent and 42 percent, respectively. With a total of eight medals, three-time U.S. Paralympian Jessica Long tied two other athletes for the title of Top Paralympic Medalist for the 2012 games. She added five gold, two silver, and one bronze medal to her cache and in doing so broke two world records, an American record, and three Paralympic records.
Several Paralympians and O&P professionals told The O&P EDGE about their experience at the Games.
"The Olympic experience was amazing. We were really taken care of …spoiled really. In the states, para-sports aren't really put at the forefront or even on stage at all. So to have so many people come out and support us was amazing. Winning the silver—I have never experienced joy like that. It was an amazing feeling. I was excited that I made the final but to actually medal was incredible. It's absolutely inspiring to see so many people with an array of different disabilities compete on such a high level. To be more specific, I feel that my class [T/F 44] has no limits."
"The actual competition [was exciting]—getting out there, knowing that on my team I had some of the best [players] in the world on my side, and looking across the court at other competitors knowing that they, too, had some of the best…. The competition in London far surpassed that of previous games! I loved the increased skill; it really showcased our sport for the tough, exciting, and fast game that it is! I was truly honored to have had the privilege to…play with these awesome competitors."
Women's volleyball: 2nd place/silver
"I had been [at the Games] for a week and had been in the stadium to watch teammates run, jump, and throw throughout this time. But walking out in my warm-ups and running leg, with my number pinned to my singlet, it became real. The crowd roared to life watching us come out…. Walking down the 100-meter final stretch toward the start of our [heat for the] 400-meter race was easy and playful on this occasion; there was no pressure to win, only to make it through to the final…. I was able to be a little more relaxed and look around at the immensity of it all during the prelim but was zeroed in on what I had to do in the final. My prayer was to go out and run as fast as God would allow me to run."
Men's 400m T44: 3rd place/bronze,
50.61 seconds (world record)
"Just making it to the Games was huge. This was the first time ever that bilateral AKs (transfemoral amputees) have qualified for ambulatory track, and to be one of those four people in the world was so special. I will never forget that. Since I have to run against unilateral AK women, I knew that I had no chance of winning my race, and just that freed me from the stress and I was able to truly enjoy myself. When they announced my name in the stadium of 80,000 people and my face was on the huge screen, I could not help but be so proud to be representing the USA! These women are all just class acts. Being an above-knee amputee is hard enough, but then to want to try to run and compete is beyond difficult. These are brave women who push themselves past what people see as possible. I'm lucky to be among them."
Women's 100m T42: 6th place, 17.33 seconds (personal best)
"The energy in the city and the support of the locals was very, very exciting. Speaking with the locals, I learned that many people weren't able to get tickets to the Olympics so they jumped on the chance for Paralympics tickets! Spectators were treated to sports and athletes they'd never seen or heard of before. The crowd…in the stadium came to complete silence for the blind athletes as they competed in the 4x100-meter relay and long jump. And they roared to cheer on the sprinters in the 100- meter dash. People were so excited to take part in the Games. I think the athletes were stunned at the roar of the crowd and their instant rock-star status."
—Meghan Seus, marketing manager,
Freedom Innovations, Irvine, California
"I have had the privilege of being named to four Canadian Paralympic teams, twice coming home with the title as the World's Fastest Amputee. My journey to London didn't end with the results that I personally wanted; however, my experience at the 2012 Games was my most rewarding. The people of Britain, the family, and friends…made the atmosphere electric, inspiring, and truly increased the platform for people with disabilities around the world. London did not end with me on top of the podium, but it was the best Games of my life."
Men's 100m T42: 4th place, 12.65 seconds
"I have attended a number of Paralympic events, and this one surpassed them—it was phenomenal…. It makes me all the more determined to recruit and encourage more participation from our patients and clinicians. There are a lot of activities they [patients] can be involved in, from swimming, to track and field, to sitting volleyball to wheelchair basketball. If you dream it, you can achieve it."
—Kevin Carroll, MS, CP, FAAOP, vice president
of prosthetics, Hanger Clinic, Austin, Texas
Images on the right: Top Left - Bradley Johnson, Top Right - Jeremy Campell, Bottom Left - April Holmes, Bottom Right - Lora Webster
Bradley Johnson (bilateral right transfemoral/left transtibial)
Men's three person sonar sailing: 9th place
Jeremy Campell (bilateral right transfemoral/left transtibial)
Men's discus throw F44: 1st place/gold,
60.05 meters (Paralympic record)
Women's 100m:: 3rd place/bronze medal
13.33 seconds (seasonal best)
Women's 200m: did not start
Women's volleyball: 2nd place/silver
"It was nerve-wracking being in front of such a big crowd.... When you are racing, you want to…make it to the final, but it is hard to stay relaxed when you have 80,000 people screaming at you saying ‘Go! Go! Go! Go!’... You really get into the crowd. As the days progressed, I felt more and more relaxed.... Being able to stand [on the podium] means so much—having the American flag raised for you and the stadium chanting your name puts into perspective everything that I sacrificed, and the work was worth it."
Men's 100m: 5th place, 11.21 seconds
Men's 200m: 3rd place/bronze, 22.46 seconds
Men's 400m: 2nd place/silver, 50.14 seconds (regional record)
Men's 4x100m relay, T42/T46 classification: disqualified