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Sun Apr 20 22:56:07 SAST 2014

Games that have changed us all

OLIVER BROWN and Reuters | 10 September, 2012 07:510 Comments
Competitors in the men's marathon T54, the classification given to wheelchair racing at the Paralympics, pass the Palace of Westminster and Big Ben yesterday in their race through London
Image by: REUTERS

THE Paralympics that ended in London's Olympic Park last night exceeded all rational expectations.

The feats over the last 12 days have served to stir, humble, and perhaps even change us.

It is the dignified courage of the individual that is inscribed most indelibly in the memory. From Alex Zanardi's gold in hand cycling without legs, to Matt Stutzman's silver in archery without arms, it has been an experience to redraw what we presumed was possible in the sporting arena.

As Stutzman said: "Impossible is not a word. I hope people see this, use it and push on with whatever their passion happens to be."

Once the Paralympics had the air of "after the Lord Mayor's show", but in London, they earned an equivalence with their grander cousin, as 2.5 million people poured through the gates.

London set a high Paralympic standard for Rio to emulate in four years' time.

The maelstrom of controversy Oscar Pistorius sparked, with his protests over Alan Oliveira's blades, shredded any notion of the Paralympics as a parallel universe. These competitors do not exist in a Corinthian bubble, genuflecting before each other's feats. Instead they display all the insecurities, resentments and fits of pique so familiar in other areas of modern sport.

How fitting that Pistorius, the man who has done most to transplant the Paralympic movement into the mainstream, should have found himself central to that shift.

Pistorius brought the curtain down with a dominant display for gold in the 400m on Saturday night.

It was a happy ending for Pistorius, who finished the Paralympic Games with one individual gold after failing to defend the 100m and 200m titles he won in Beijing four years ago. He also won gold in the 4x100m relay.

Pistorius finished nearly four seconds ahead of his nearest rival, Blake Leeper who was followed home by David Prince of the US. Oliveira, who beat the South African in the 200m last week, was fourth.

"This whole season, I've had a lot of challenges and I have a lot to thank my coach for," Pistorius, who also competed in the London Olympics last month, told Channel Four television.

"I'm so proud. This summer has been a dream come true. I couldn't hope for anything better. I wanted to give the crowd something special to take home with them."

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