Zeitung Heute : Games of the unexpected Paralympians are not immune to the pressure of a nation

Some favourites like Oscar Pistorius struggled – and other athletes like Mickey Bushell of Team Great Britain surprised.

Surprise. Brazilian sprinter Alan Oliveira defeated Oscar Pistorius over 200m.
Surprise. Brazilian sprinter Alan Oliveira defeated Oscar Pistorius over 200m.

The Paralympics is about the unexpected and in the past week or so we've definitely had our fair share of surprises on the athletics track. The biggest surprise of them all perhaps came from Paralympic poster boy, Oscar Pistorius, labelled as the "fastest man with no legs." With a fair few Paralympic gold medals and world records to his name, the South African was expected to glide his way to the top step of the podium. In the first 100 metres of the 200 metres final, Pistorius looked certain to collect his first gold medal of the London Games but as the athletes drew onto the straight, the Brazilian Alan Oliveira closed the gap to clinch first place at the finishing line.

Whether Pistorius' claim to running an "unfair race" proves to be true or false, the shock of him coming second will be the lasting memory of that race.

With ParalympicsGB competing on home turf, the expectation placed on every single athlete was daunting. To represent your nation is an honour that not much can better, however, the pressure that is applied when wearing the ParalympicsGB emblem on your jacket is difficult to comprehend.

While Hannah Cockroft was expected to medal after her gold performances at the 2011 IPC Athletics World Championships, she still managed to astound spectators in London with a new Paralympic record of 18.06 seconds in the T34 100m sprint. The 20-year-old wheelchair-racer from Halifax, also known as "Rocketwomen“, thus picked up the first athletic gold for Great Britain.

Many hoped Tracey Hinton, who at the age of 42 is captaining the women's athletics squad at her sixth Paralympic Games, would clinch a medal but Hinton fell just short of qualifying for the 200m final after finishing third in her semi-final. The Cardiffian, who has collected three silver medals and three bronze medals over her long career, was the perfect dark horse for a gold medal after delivering so much success for Great Britain over the last 20 years but it was not to be.

Another athlete who had the country’s support in his sails was Derek Derenalagi. The ex-serviceman who lost both his legs and was pronounced dead after his vehicle hit a roadside bomb in Afghanistan, set out to clinch a medal in the F57/58 discus. Unfortunately, despite the crowd roaring behind every throw, he did not make it to the final of this event. The Fijian born athlete entered the Games off the back of winning a gold medal in the European Championships and had the nation hoping for a repeat of this success in London. Though he may not be standing on top of the podium, he has certainly fulfilled his main ambition to "inspire others". In many ways, it is amazing that he is competing in the Paralympics after waking up from a nine day coma in Selly Oak hospital, Birmingham, and finding the will to carry on and "put a smile on someone's face, especially someone who has lost a limb, who thinks they can't do anything. To inspire someone like that would be more rewarding to me than anything."

On the other end of the spectrum, the Paralympics 2012 certainly delivered unexpected golds for the ParalympicsGB athletics team. Mickey Bushell, who in Beijing claimed silver in the 100 metres event and again in the 2011 World Championships, entered the Games with a competitive field in his way to the top step of the podium. Narrowly missing out on the gold four years ago and still being only 22 years of age, he claimed gold while setting a Paralympic record of 14.75 seconds. After winning the event, he revealed: "It was all about winning tonight. Training has been going really well the past couple of weeks, so I knew I was a big contender for the gold. The conditions on the day were perfect."

The London Paralympics 2012 have proven to be a phenomenal display of athletic ability but just like the Olympics have offered the thrills and spills of competition on the world stage. Paralympians are not immune to the pressure of a nation and they strive for success, despite their disability and the barriers that they have had to break through. This is what makes the Paralympics so fantastic: Athletes who have stunned the world with their abilities to overcome impairment provide entertainment with the same ferocity of any other sporting event in the world.

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