I had known for months that I’d be going to Rio in May for a workshop with the Paralympic Post team but it wasn’t until the plane descended and I could make out the unfamiliar skyline of the city below that I realised the adventure had begun. Half an hour later the stamp in passport confirmed that I was indeed in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.
Despite the following two days of rain our spirits were high with the excitement of meeting our Brazilian counterparts. I was the only British student among the team, joined by 9 students from Germany and 10 from Brazil. Together along with two of our colleagues who couldn’t make it to the workshop we will return in September to produce The Paralympic Zeitung, Jornal Paralímpico and The Paralympic Post, an international edition of the paper that I will be working on alongside Keri Trigg.
The bad weather meant that our trip to the Sugar Loaf Mountain was cancelled but all was not lost however as we had a spontaneous stop off at the beach to watch the surfing competition. The waves were wild and the clouds were low making it very atmospheric.
The first day had given us a chance to interview each other for our first assignment to write portraits of each other, and the second day saw us put our interview skills to the test with Paralympic athletes. The Open Athletics Championship taking place at the Nilton Santos Olympic stadium was the perfect opportunity to experience being in the mixed zone. We didn’t have long to prepare and we were all furiously researching our chosen topics and athletes in the bus on the way there.
After taking part in The Paralympic Post at the London 2012 Paralympic Games I knew a little of what to expect, but it had been 4 years since I had interviewed an athlete and I was feeling a little nervous. The American sprinter and long-jumper, Lex Gillette, was happy to speak to me despite not winning a medal at the event, and I got the same thrill I had interviewing athletes during the London Games.
The evening presented a new challenge, dancing samba for the first time without any lessons. Julian, Fernanda, Jorge and myself found ourselves at a samba club in front of the live band. Unsure of our steps we did our best to follow the music and mimic the moves of the native Cariocas who began to dance around us. Although it was slightly embarrassing, it was a great first taste of Brazilian culture and I’m hoping to perfect my samba moves before I return in September.
On the last day we visited the offices of the Brazilian media partner O Globo and had some first-hand advice from sports journalists working in Brazil. We got some top tips and realised how important it is that we raise the profile of the Paralympic Games in Brazil through our coverage of the Games. The three days of the workshop culminated in our first editorial meeting, gathering ideas for the first issue. We had learnt a lot from the experts and journalists we had spoken too throughout the workshop and we were full of ideas and excited for the three months ahead when we can watch our stories take shape ready for the first editions.
The whole team has bonded so well, we have shared meals together, sung songs in the mini bus and posed for countless team photos and I can’t wait to be reunited with everyone in September!