Last night I was one of a small minority (just 80,000 of us) privileged enough to be watching the Paralympic Games at the Olympic stadium. We watched several finals of track events – sprints, wheelchair sprints, 1500m, high jump, and long jump – and we were just blown away by the determination of some of these athletes to defy the odds and achieve. The category of high jump participants we saw were all lower limb amputees, who hopped forward to the bar, and performed such a ballistic move to achieve grace and precision, as well as height. The racing chair users each had a story, all truly inspirational. The American Tatyana McFaddenwho took the Gold was of Eastern European origin, abandoned and dumped in a dustbin at birth, but rescued and adopted by a US diplomat. This story hit home with me when I heard it: what one of us may perceive as useless, another may choose to prize.
I want to take a positive message back to my clients about fighting on for the prize. These are guys who struggle with seriously compromised health, and it is easy to get despondent, especially with degenerative conditions such as MS. I would like them to move away from seeing the prize as a fixed object, moving further and further away from them, and instead envisage a trail of small prizes, to be set and re-defined in response to how things are going. This follows on from a conversation I had with my coach this last week, about progression and regression. He was working very hard to get my thick and stubborn head to appreciate that when a movement becomes too difficult for me, I need to regress the movement, and not dwell on losses and gains. When something is not happening, we need to regress the movement to a place where it is workable again, and yet still challenging. Progression and regression offer infinite scope – as long as we remain open minded.
Those sportsmen and women last night, facing immense loss, chose not to view it as loss but merely a baseline from which to develop their athletic skill. The crowd last night was ready to cheer them all, even the straggler at the back of the race, because they were all conquerors.