Why Seeing Olympic and Paralympic History Firsthand Was Important

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With the Summer Olympics just finished and the Paralympics going on now. It is a good time to chronicle witnessing Olympic and Paralympic history firsthand. I was very young when the Summer Olympic Games were hosted in Atlanta. I would be old enough to remember, however. Mama wanted to make sure I had memories.

We went to see the torch ran by in my county. It felt like it was 150 degrees that day. We went and found a spot to watch anyway. She explained to me that when the regular Olympics were over: there was another Olympics called the Paralympics. Those, she said, were just for athletes with physical challenges like me. I was excited.

Mama had a couple of surprises for me along with her explanation. As a family: we were going to watch the swimming qualifying for the Paralympics at Georgia Tech University on a Saturday. I was pumped because I love swimming. The water makes the challenges of my CP nonexistent. Those swimmers reinforced what my parents had always told me: my CP only changes the way I must do stuff not that I can’t. I wanted to be a Paralympic swimmer. I didn’t go that route, of course, but I kept swimming.

Mama’s second surprise was even more amazing. As a family we were going to the Paralympic open ceremonies at the Olympic Stadium! I was so thrilled to witness history firsthand. Christopher Reeve was the Master of Ceremonies for the evening. Carly Simon sang. Watching the parade of nations was cool.  My favorite part, of the ceremony, by a long shot was when the torch was lit at the end of the night. “Mark Wellman then endured an 80-foot climb from catwalk to cauldron while holding the Paralympic flame to light the cauldron and officially open the Games.” (https://www.paralympic.org/atlanta-1996). His feat was unbelievably amazing! I’m just sorry cameras weren’t allowed in the stadium that night. Seeing the athletes overcome their own physical challenges, be at the top of their respective sports, and represent their countries still impacts me to this day in how I choose to live my life doing my best to thrive with my condition.

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