My London 2012 Paralympic experience started over 18 months ago when I was asked to travel to New Zealand In January 2011 for the IPC Athletics World Championships with Great Britain. This was the forming of what was to prove to be a rather successful GB team of both staff and athletes.
In Christchurch, New Zealand, the Great Britain and Northern Ireland team won a total of 38 medals, which was a significant improvement on previous results and was a great sign for what might be in the Olympic stadium. Since then training has continued across the country and at several warm weather training camps, completing final phases of preparations which started 4 years ago.
On the 18th August I flew out to Portugal, where a squad of 48 athletes were based for 8 days prior to our flight direct into the Paralympic village. I was working as a soft tissue therapist in a medical team which consisted; 2 doctors, 2 physiotherapists, 2 soft tissue therapists, a nurse, a sports psychologist, a nutritionist and strength and conditioning coach.
The purpose of the holding camp was to escape media attention and to implement final preparations, both mental and physical.
On Arrival at Gatwick airport the team received a phenomenal reception, which was the start of things to come, cheers and clapping as we walked through arrivals to get into our own individual BMW’s – this was Paralympics GB travelling in style and certainly enjoying the home advantage!
And home advantage was certainly prevalent within the medical facilities; GB had exclusive access to their own bespoke medical centre which was our base for the duration of the games. The facility was a purpose built environment equipped with ice baths, spin bikes and plenty of treatment beds.
Our days in competition were either based in the medical centre treating athletes competing later in the week or based at the warm up track providing pre and post race massage and stretching assisstance. However our role as part of the team was very varied and diverse, the nature of working with Paralympians leads to roles such as assisting athletes in and out of racing chairs, feeding those who can not manage it alone and guiding visually impaired athletes around the village.
The two weeks were full of highlights (11 gold, 7 silver, 11 bronze!) but the memories that will stay with me for ever are walking into the stadium during the opening ceremony to the loudest cheer I have ever heard! Witnessing David Weir win his 4 golds, especially at the marathon on the final day of competition and being privaliged to experience a home games with such an inspiring group of individuals.