Well…….where to start and what to say.
To say I’d been excited about the thought of going to the Paralympics a) at all, b) somewhere warm and sunny, c) for £10-20 per event, d) for a full week would be the biggest understatement!!
Originally we planned this Rio Paralympics trip before any other as soon as we knew we were actually taking the year break. We didn’t think Olympic tickets would be possible to get (judging by how impossible it was to see anything at London 2012!) so we ‘settled’ for Paralympics (which was actually my preferred option anyway 😊).
Then the Rio media build up started……no police……athletes getting robbed……protests everywhere……Brazilians against the games…….Zika…….! And we started to panic. Reconsider our trip. Even dread it slightly.
Then August came around and we caught serious Olympic fever! We sat and watched what we could (with it buffering throughout WFP’s XC round and me screaming at the TV!) and did a full 180 degrees to be ridiculously over excited again!
We got back from ihla grande full of excitement ready for our week in ‘Estacio’ central Rio de Janerio. John had booked a really nice little appt through air bnb right in the middle of the 3 event areas. To put this into perspective…it took 1-2hrs to get from one event site to another so an appt in the ‘middle’ meant it took us 1-2hrs for each venue but we could got to all of them more easily! We could see the metro station from our appt so getting around was so easy (once we’d worked out the ticket system).
We’d bought a few tickets ahead of the games so started with a full day at the equestrian event. It was 33deg, no shade, no breeze and no cover I can only imagine what the riders were feeling in full dressage gear! We melted into our seats……for me it was a great event as this was the Grade 1a class, Sophie Christensen and Anne Durham. Unfortunately for John as this was the most disabled class level he had to sit through 7hrs of “horse walking” in 33deg sun…….!
BUT now we had the Paralympic bug! We went in search of a GB flag and promptly bought a stack more tickets for the rest of the week.
We saw two sessions of athletics in the Olympic stadium, and were bowled over by the atmosphere, the positivity of the crowd, the sense of community from all the athletes and just got total Paralympic fever! We cheered team GB, we cheered Team Brazil, we cheered anyone and everyone that competed in that stadium and it was over too quickly each time.
The next day we headed to the Barra Olympic village to catch the GB vs AUS wheelchair rugby game. I’d had advice from home that this was definitely an event not to miss (thanks Vicky!) and my days that was true. We spent the first 15 mins with our mouths open while the teams bashed into each other, smashed their chairs, knocked each other over or out of the arena, caught the ball with no hands/arms, propelled at mad speeds with no arms or legs, were strapped into chairs with minimal upper body functions scoring goals! Once we’d got over the initial impact (pun intended) of this sport we quickly got right into it and cheered for Team GB at the top of our lungs for the rest of the game. Then we came back for the France vs USA game and cheered all over again!! Epic event! Now we’re hooked!!
The next day we headed off to table tennis but had also managed to get tickets to be in the live audience of the last leg. We thought these venues were close……….we were wrong. So unfortunately we ended up very late to the table tennis but managed to catch the players John was hoping to see…….South Korea vs China (sounds like a stereotype but they are the best in the world at table tennis!) and watched the team game with a mad South Korean support contingent singing and chanting and cheering throughout. They even managed to make the quiet calm table tennis arena raucous!
Then we headed off to see the last leg, both of us anxious about getting accidentally on TV but excited for the show. It was SO much fun. The guys were as funny of camera as they were on. We were there for Alex Brookers amazing speech (all over youtube). The feeling in the room was just pure warmth, respect and admiration for every single athlete in and out of the studio! It was a lot of fun! We managed to grab some athletes for photos for Funprobo.
The end of the week was another full day at the horses but this time the place was alive and we enjoyed the freestyle tests to music (or ‘horse dancing’) and saw Team GB clean up with 4 golds including Team Gold! We met Diana Man a para dressage equestrian athlete who commentated with Clare Balding at London 2012 and is gunning for a place on Team GB for Tokyo 2020. So we learned even more about the sport and the riders. It was an amazing historical day of equestrianism and we both thoroughly enjoyed it!!
Sat was our last day in Rio so we spent the morning walking down Copacabana beach, had calamari and a coco loco cocktail for lunch, bought a lot of havaianas, met more wonderful athletes (Shaun ‘one arm bandit’ Anderson – SA archer) then headed to the Olympic stadium for the last evening of athletics.
The atmosphere was electric and the stands were full. Everyone cheered everyone, Mexican waves rippled round the stadium, the athletes who asked for the crowd to clap them into their jump/throw/race were dutifully clapped, whooped and cheered, the entire stadium fell silent when asked to allow the visually impaired athletes to hear cues from their guides and the who evening passed in a flash!
Sadly then it was time to leave. I can safely say this week was one of the best holidays I’ve ever had (and that’s saying something!), I got to Physio nerd all week and be inspired and reminded why I do the job I do. John got to experience seeing people with all sorts of disabilities overcome that and be better at sport than he is……! We are very lucky for lots of reasons.