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When the Olympics ended, few citizens realized that 2 weeks later another challenging 10 day Olympic Games would be held in Beijing for the disabled world-caliber athletes, bringing all of us a Paralympic experience that would be: positive, exciting, touching for our hearts and a chance for diabetics to learn even more about triumphing over adversity. Yes, the Paralympians deserved better coverage for their effort and valor. Their stories exemplify the best of what it means to be Human.
But, for crass, commercial reasons, their story was barely told in America, so I will highlight a few athlete’s stories here and I hope they will help diabetics to realize that through knowledge, discipline and tenacity, you can create a better life for yourself, as these brave athletes do, step by step, day by day.
PLEASE DOUBLE-CLICK ON THE PHOTOS TO SEE THEM AT THEIR LARGEST SIZE.
Twenty-six years ago, talented cyclist Barbara Buchan, was fighting for her life after being hit while she was in a road-race, even though she wore the accepted soft-helmet of those days. She was comatose for 2 months, and survived, but with serious brain injuries which leave her cognitively impaired in a wide variety of ways due to loss of 1/4 of her front temporal lobe, as well as being physically impaired, especially in her hands.
Barbara is the oldest member of the US Paralympic team at age 52. From age 25 onward, she has survived 5 major surgeries and has many titanium skull plates and screws and six years of rehabilitation behind her, when doctors feared she would never speak or walk again.
Through it all, she has never let go of her dream as a 15 year old, to win an Olympic Gold medal in cycling, and this time around she achieved it! Barbara won her class of the individual 3,000 meter cycling pursuit, and now owns the World Record at 4 minutes 15:848 secs, too.
Her achievement caps a quarter century of daily action towards her goal, tenacity that has lasted longer than most of her fellow competitors have even been alive. And, even though her accident resulted in the hard-helmet laws which have protected cyclists ever since, this victory must be even sweeter.
As New York Times reports, “Buchan recovered enough of her athletic ability to run track in the 1988 Paralympics in Seoul, South Korea, where she won a silver medal at 800 meters. Women’s cycling was not included in the Paralympics yet, so Buchan trained to the point where she raced against men in the 2000 Paralympics in Sydney, Australia — she finished 9th and 10th in two races — and then successfully fought for a separate women’s cycling program beginning in 2004 in Athens, where she did not medal.”
Please remember how many times I wrote about my admiration for Dara Torres, in Parts 1 – 4 (see links in Reference, below). Dara Torres, who at 41, has an amazing, healthy body won many medals in Beijing. But, after hearing Barbara’s story, I have to say that I am even more amazed at her accomplishments. I admire Barbara SO much! She’s 11 years older than Dara, doesn’t have her money or resources, and has had a lonely journey to her dream, (and even just to survive in Life). What a triumph of the Human Spirit Barbara is. What an inspiration!
Brava, Barbara! When you return to your job at The Home Depot in Bend, Oregon, your co-workers and community will welcome you as the hero you are. Next time I go to Bend, I’ll come to the gardening department and tell you too, in person!
NATALIE du TOIT:
Natalie du Toit is a 20-something Olympian from South Africa. She is the first person to be both a regular Olympian and a Paralympian. She participated in both Games in Beijing. This is a tremendous accomplishment for anyone!
Natalie was already an Olympic caliber swimmer, when on her way to training, at age 21, she was hit by a car, and her leg was severed. She has hauled herself up out of that tragedy, and is making the BEST of her life — by setting and achieving new, worthy goals, by acting as a wonderful role model for able-bodied and dis-abled people and as a motivational speaker (her ‘day job’).
Natalie won 5 Gold Medals and 1 Silver Medal in swimming in the Athens Paralympics 2004, and this year, she was trying for 5 Gold Medals. Her participation in the regular Olympics was historic, and she entered in the new event called the Women’s Marathon Swim. It was NOT 26 miles, but it was 6 miles – six grueling, dog-eat-dog, no holds barred miles – in open sea!
She was courageous even to try, especially when her amputated leg just trails behind her, uselessly, and even with one good leg, with rolling waves already, she was sure most of her effort would have to be from her strong arm-strokes.
Nathalie ran into trouble because her swim cap obscured her vision, and she panicked, trying to keep afloat AND use both hands to put her cap on properly again. It cost her precious time, and would have been an easy chore for the other competitors had it happened to them.
And, the other swimmers gave her no preference. She had to get into the sea on a dive on one leg and haul herself out, exhausted, onto the dock at the finish, before she could put on her prosthetic leg, and just have the chance to relax like everyone else. But, Natalie asks for no favors, and she did well, even though not as well as she had hoped. She finished in the upper-half of the pack. She’s anticipating competing in the regular Games, again, in London.
In her Paralympics competition, Natalie shone. She’s going home to South Africa with 5 Gold Medals! She won the Women’s 100m Freestyle, S9 class; Women’s 50m Freestyle, S9; Women’s 400m Freestyle – S9; Women’s 100m Butterfly – S9; Women’s 200m Individual Medley – SM9 class. Like in Athens, some were in World Record time, and the races were exciting, people edging others out by tiny times, just like the regular Games. Brava Natalie!
And, as icing on the cake, Natalie won the Whang Youn Dai Achievement Award given to the most inspiring Paralympian female athlete.
The Chinese people became enthusiastically involved in watching the Paralympics and it has helped to ‘change the image’ of what disabled people can accomplish and contribute to their society. This was a crucial, much-needed mindset change for China, as previously, disabled people were shunned and denigrated.
As the recent earthquake in China resulted in tens of thousands of new amputees, this new view has brought the chance that they will be better respected and incorporated into Chinese society, as the leaders saw what Paralympians can accomplish, first-hand. And, now Beijing is a model to cities of what must be done for proper handicap access. Well done!
Additionally, the IOC has ruled that from now on, the host of each summer and winter Games must also host the Paralympics, using the same venues and with the same quality of support. Well done!
But, I wish that support was forthcoming for the US Paralympic Team, which has NOT been given equal chance at training, training facilities, residential training, coaching, financial support, access to sponsors or financial rewards when medaling. What a scandal. Other major countries do much better. It makes the American Paralympians’ efforts all that more courageous.
And, now as I did before, I’ll end with —
THE PARALYMPIC MARATHON!
Edith Hunkeler – Switzerland
winner, Women’s Marathon, T-54 class
Edith finished in 1 hour 39:09 minutes!
and for the Men –
Kurt Fearnley – Australia
winner, Men’s Marathon, T-54 class
I have to say that when my father was confined to a wheelchair after losing both legs to diabetes, we got him a “sports” wheelchair (mid-1980’s version, when they were a “new” item). I am sure that sports-chairs have come a long way since then, as we just resurrected my Dad’s chair for my Mum to use, due to increased hip pain and needed surgery.
Even though my father was a strong man, and had great upper-body strength, I think he would also find it amazing as to what Paralympians can do in their more modern “sports” wheelchairs.
The fact that the Paralympians can go for Marathon distances, at speed, and play basketball, and have long distance relay races etc., from their chairs, shows just how much people are capable of and how much technology has continued to improve their lives. My father’s titanium chair is nowhere close to these super-dooper ones in the Games.
And, I remember my father struggling with his prosthesis. He really never wore it much; it was just too heavy and too painful. Now that disabilities are more “accepted”, people can do away with the extra-baggage of having to have something look “nice and normal”. Instead, they can use a limb that is light and strong. When I see Paralympian runners and sprinters pounding their amputated legs in the sockets of these new limbs, I have to hope that ordinary amputees will benefit from the technology, fit, scale of production, and with improvement in all of these, then the world will be able to use more of the “disabled’s” talent. Let’s even the playing field of Life a little more!
For the cognitively-disabled like Barbara Buchan, and for the visually-impaired athletes and other disabled groups, I hope the consciouness-raising of general society will benefit those disabled groups, too. Let’s work with our similarities and respect our differences, and work together, for a better world.
A quick word as to why I put the “class” information in each of these results. That is because the Paralympics are organized way beyond the regular Games’ distinctions of only Male or Female or Team events. The Paralympians need to compete against one another in the fairest way possible, so they are grouped by type of disability and (maybe) even degree of impairment (not sure on that). So, the same event is held many more times in the Paralympics, and the most robust athletes are the top seeded group who get the most notice. They are elite athletes in every way.
In the Paralympics, the top 10 medal countries are, in order: China, Britain, United States of America, Australia, Ukraine, Russia, Germany, Spain, Canada, Brazil.
However, it is important to see on the Medals Roster for the Paralympics that athletes from 76 countries medaled at these Games. I think that may be more countries than do so in the regular Games.
There is something wonderful to see that a Paralympian from Papua New Guinea or Syria or Namibia or Bosnia won a medal, and they did! Also, huge numbers of maimed war veterans DO compete from many countries. In fact, it was to give World War 2 veterans a new lease on life that the Paralympics were started, in London, in 1948.
And, next time, they will return to London. Push hard to see these Games next time. Insist to the International Olympic Committee (IOC) that whoever gets the regular Games TV contract MUST also show the Paralympics. Write and be heard! You’ll find IOC online.
Best to all — Em
Be sure to check the Title Archive on the upper Navigation Bar. There are 3 pages listed there. Enjoy!
The Oldest Olympic Champions – Hardwork Makes Miracles We Can Learn From – Parts 1 through 4
Part 2 at:
Part 3 at:
Part 4 at:
Paralympic coverage was available, and maybe there is an archive, at:
OTHER ARTICLES and VIDEOS:
Natalie du Toit – First Gold Medal:
China’s Previous View About The Disabled:
Natalie du Toit Wins The Whang Youn Dai Award For Paralympian Achievement
For more information, please visit the official website of the Whang Youn Dai Achievement Award at www.whangprize.org .
Paralympics, Summer Sports Roster: http://www.paralympic.org/release/Summer_Sports/
Paralympics Winter Sports Roster: http://www.paralympic.org/release/Winter_Sports/
Paralympic Hall of Fame: http://www.paralympic.org/hof/main.html
PARALYMPIC RESULTS: http://results.beijing2008.cn/WRMP/ENG/Schedule/index.shtml
Nathalie’s BIO: http://results.beijing2008.cn/WRMP/ENG/BIO/Athlete/1/1210611.shtml
1. adapted. Original at: www.nbcolympics.com
2. Tree of Life, Opening Ceremony, Paralympics, Beijing 2008 www.cbc.ca
3. 4. and 5. Barbara Buchan – Rolf Venennbran, European Press Photo Agency via New York Times
6. Barabra Buchan – determination! http://images.china.org.cn
7. Barbara Buchan – on the podium! http://images.china.org.cn
8. Natalie du Toit – into the pool http://jfactivist.typepad.com
9. Natalie du Toit – lost the source, probably due too long a title.
10. Natalie du Toit – Associated Press – Kevork Djansezian
11. Natalie du Toit – AP, John Super via New York Times
12. Natalie du Toit – http://en.beijing2008.org.cn
13. 14. 15. – Edith Hunkeler – http://en.paralympic.beijing2008.cn/news/sports/athletics/n214605794.shtml
16. 17. 18. – Kurt Fearnley
Miracle Mineral For Diabetics series will resume in about 2 weeks, after I am back in California. Next week – Celebrating Rosh Hashannah – maybe I’ll include another healthier, diabetic, natural honey cake recipe. We’ll see how the week goes, or maybe I’ll use it for a commentary on the State of Our Health in the Big Scheme of Things, and where to go from here for new starts and new priorities.
(c)2008 Em https://diabetesdietdialogue.wordpress.com
Please respect my copyright if you decide to use my article or quote from it. Include my full copyright citation and website address in your reference section or as a footnote. Thanks!