On Saturday, I had a wonderfully inspiring day out at the Paralympics. I had been hugely disappointed not to get tickets for the swimming at the Olympics, but hadn't even thought about going to the Paralympics when my very kind colleague offered me a ticket for the heats on the morning of 1st September to go with his sister in law and her husband. I didn't even think about it before saying yes, and spent most of the preceding 10 days feeling really exciting about it and trying to decide which of my Olympic pieces of clothing, amassed in the previous month, to wear.
As the session started at 9.30am, it required an early start. I was up at 5.30am (but had actually been awake since 4.30am!) to drive to the Park and Ride to catch the bus to London. It was obvious that several other people waiting for the bus were going in the same direction, and as I chatted to a woman in Games Maker uniform (who worked in the athletes bar apparently!), the lady in front turned around and turned out to be my colleague's sister in law. We'd been intending to meet at the Aquatics Centre and had never met before so it was rather fun to meet randomly at the bus stop and then travel across London together. The bus was quick and we were in London by 7.15am, catching the tube from Marble Arch across to Stratford. When we came out at Stratford, there was a sea of volunteers pointing us towards the Olympic Park and a procession of people. I'd been a bit worried about long queues, but the longest queue we faced was that for tea!
Here are some pictures of the park:
We watched a mix of different races across different classifications. There are 10 classifications for swimmers ranging from S1, the most severe, to S10, least severe, with S11-S13 for swimmers with visual impairments. (We saw the S11 50m freestyle which was also interesting as the swimmers
were hit with a little ball on a stick as they approached the end.) The classifications are not determined by the condition but by how that affects how well people can swim, which meant that there were people with varying disabilities in each race. In the more severe cases (we saw some S5 breastroke) this might mean that a swimmer without arms was swimming against one without the use of the legs (which is important in breastroke).
It was all absolutely fascinating and utterly humbling. The S6 men were able to swim their 400m faster than I could.
But the highlight was seeing Ellie Simmonds set a new Paralympic record and go through fastest to the 400m S6 final. Here she is at the start (further red cap away)
Absolutely excellent day out.