Paralympics proof that the Olympic flame still burns bright in Rio

Published 17/09/2016 | 00:00

THERE are many definitions about what exactly makes the true Olympian. Endurance, commitment, self-sacrifice and honesty are just some of the attributes needed but, for many spectators, such purity has been tarnished by recent scandals.

The credibility of the Olympics is constantly under scrutiny and in Rio we entered unchartered territory, particularly here in Ireland.

So thank God for the Paralympics, a spectacle that has helped salvage the very concept of why the Olympic flame still burns bright.

Yes, there was the ongoing issue of classification in terms of meeting the criteria of individual events. Yes, there have been major funding cuts and, yes, there have also been poor ticket sales but the opening ceremony at the Maracana was, quite simply, a sight to behold.

In the past, much of the commentary on these games has bordered on being condescending. This is no longer the case. So far, Paralympians from all over the world - in particular those from Ireland - have proved that ability is a characteristic reliant on the inner self.

Paralympians demonstrate the true essence of competition in a way that many so-called 'able-bodied' athletes could learn a thing or two from. Allegations of performance enhancing drugs have tarnished the true Olympic spirit but the vast majority of Paralympians have helped lay the foundations for a new and revitalised definition of competition and personal achievement.

Team Ireland is a case in point and we should be extremely proud of the valiant effort each and every competitor has made in the pursuit of their Olympic dream.

It's no exaggeration to suggest that their efforts have a didactic lesson when it comes to dealing with many of the obstacles life puts in our way on a daily basis. We often submit easily to life's dilemmas and finding the courage and strength to scale personal problems is hard for many of us.

But there's absolutely no reason why some of that same courage should be confined to sporting achievements. The Paralympics have shown us that many of life's personal obstacles are merely a state of mind and can be overcome.

So far, Team Ireland successes have included successes for Michael McKillop who claimed his fourth Paralympic career gold with victory in the T37 1,500m final; Derry's Jason Smyth won gold in the T13 100m final and Galway's track cyclist, Eoghan Clifford, secured bronze in the C3 Individual Pursuit.

But the entire team of 48 athletes from 10 different sports is the true indication of the success of the games from an Irish perspective, as each one has worked hard to be there and ignited a part of their character which otherwise might have passed unnoticed.

It's the true spirit of world sport - one we can all take a lesson from.

Wexford People

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