he London Aquatics Arena played host to the greatest athletes on the planet, it was also the venue where the World got to witness and be inspired by some of humanities greater qualities. Below, we will showcase just a few examples of the athletes who have inspired us and who have charmed us with their incredible displays and admirable characters.
Ellie Simmonds (Team GB) - The poster girl for the Paralympics 2012, Ellie Simmons, entered into the Games with a tremendous amount of weight on her young shoulders. Aged 17 she already had 2 Olympic Gold medals to her name from Beijing in 2008 and she duly delivered in London hauling in another 2 Golds, a silver and a bronze to her gleaming medal cabinet! Ellie Simmonds has truly become the nations sweetheart in Britain and it is truly deserved, despite her incredible performances that have escalated her to the top of the podium she is still incredibly humble and smiles with a look of disbelief that what she has achieved could be real. Ellie's commitment is phenomenal in that she trains nine times per week with two hour sessions each time. Her dedication, humility, genuine delight at all of her success and admiration for her fellow athletes justifies her winning the Sports Personality of the Year award in 2008 and makes her a standout member of the GB squad and a superb role model for young swimmers everywhere.
Natalie du Toit (South Africa) - Natalie du Toit was the first ever amputee to qualify for the Olympics where she finished 16th in the Beijing 10k open water race. She was an international swimmer aged just 14, before she had her left leg amputated after a traffic accident on her way to school from swim training. Before she has begun walking again, Natalie, was back in the pool and determined to swim in the 2002 commonwealth games without the aid fo a prosthetic limb.
Having announced that she would retire after the 2012 Games she has won 11 Paralympic Gold medals and a silver through her Paralympic career. Natalie has been praised by many pundits as helping to advance paralympic swimming as she dominated the field so convincingly that the sport has been forced to catch up. She has revolutionised the sport and will be sorely missed in Rio.
Bradley Snyder (USA) - Just over one year ago, Bradley Snyder, lost his eyesight to an Improvised Explosive Device while serving with the Royal Marines in Afghanistan. While recounting his experience and his thoughts on what happened Bradley offered a heartfelt and truly incredible response to journalists. He spoke about the people who had planted the IED saying
"They believe in what they are doing and we believe what we do is right," he said. "They fight courageously and we fight courageously right back. I feel for the people who live there. That's people's homes that they are planting those devices in, and that's not fun for anyone.. Idon't point any fingers," added Snyder, whose eyes were surgically removed and replaced with prosthetics. "I was doing a risky job and I take full responsibility for what happened and that's why I've been able to be successful over the past year because I don't blame anyone and I haven't victimised myself." When asked about this two tattoo's, tributes to a friend killed in Iraq and another who committed suicide after serving. "These are memorials to the people who don't have the opportunity to do what I get do," he said. "I was within inches of death. This is a new go at life and I try to enjoy it to the fullest."
Bradley is a superb athlete and has a unique perspective towards life and his enemies, he is a true inspiration for us all.
Josef Craig (Team GB) - Josef was born with Cerebral Palsy and competed at the Paralympic Games aged just 15. He smashed the previous world record in the S7 400m freestyle to the delight of the home crowd. He has been described by family friends and his teachers as a lovely young man with a fantastic personality.
Matt Cowdry (Australia) - The 23 year old was born with part of his arm missing due to a congenial amputation. He is currently somewhat the Michael Phelps of the Paralympics as he left London with a haul of 5 Golds to add to his previous 8 from Beijing and Athens. A world record holder and receiver of numerous accolades including being a member of The Australian Institute of Sport's 'best of the best'.
It has been an honour to watch the Paralympic Games and it is important that we take time to recognise the true value of what we have seen, the inspiration we can draw from our athletes is tremendous and it would be a failure to miss it. When we witness such incredible overcoming of adversity and performances of exceptional quality, even in remarkable circumstances, we find athletes who, despite great success, demonstrate incredible humility, determination and a sense of honour at the opportunity that they have had; it would be dreadful for us to not adopt a similar outlook on life.
We have an opportunity to achieve things well beyond what our bodies can currently do, we have the role models who have demonstrated that to us and now the gauntlet has been laid down for us to follow. Now go and run that 5k or marathon that you thought was too difficult, don't miss the message that the Games have brought to us.