Wednesday, 14 September 2016

Paralympics 2016 - Cheating Death And Parahoneys

Look I know I’m behind. I don’t need you to tell me this. But you try sifting your way through three lengthy Paralympic broadcasts a day, all the while making notes on your phone but making sure that you don’t commit the appalling sin of missing Only Connect. There isn’t much time left to write them all up. But we’ll press on, eh?

Jonathan Fox, last seen reeling from his defeat in the S7 100m backstroke, goes in the heats of the 50m and breezes through in first place, but in the women’s event Susie Rodgers has a nervous wait to see if she has made it through to the final after finishing second in her heat. Unlike in many other disciplines qualification is not decided by finishing positions but by the fastest times across all the heats. As it turns out she makes it through, which is just as well given the tendency of some of the female swimmers to become slightly emotional.

Outside at the track Mickey Bushell is going in the men’s T53 100m. Bushell has recovered from a urine infection which led to blood poisoning and was, we are told, just 12 hours away from death before pulling off a miraculous recovery. I’ve had water infections. Which is a bit like saying I’ve had strawberries. I’ve had lots of the bloody things. Probably three or four a year at the current rate which continues to perplex the experts charged with keeping me alive. I have also lost people. Friends that is, who have suffered complications from various biff related problems and illnesses. Shit like this gets real. However, I have never had a water infection that has left me 12 hours from death so I can’t imagine the world of pain that Bushell must have been in at that point. For me it’s a week off work, a course of leeches from the GP and back to it. I’m touching wood as I say that. I’ve lost too many friends to be completely certain that I will still be here next week.

Bushell’s presence in Rio is remarkable enough then, and he continues to confound all sense and reason by qualifying for the final in second place home favourite Arisosvaldo Fernandes Silva. As if he hasn’t had enough problems, Bushell reveals that he suffered a flat tyre during his warm-up, and then ANOTHER one when he arrived at the start line. This is a man who shoves ice cubes down the back of adversity. When I suffer a flat tyre it involves a long and boring conversation with a wheelchair mechanic about why they haven’t got ‘the right parts’ to solve the problem. The right parts. It’s a fucking flat tyre. Oh yes but we have to order those tyres in from West Virginia and they are carried here on foot by a small child and oh fucking hell…..

In another heat Mo Jomni can only manage fourth place and so does not make it through to the final. No Mobot there, then.

You’re never far away from a hop to a different sport during Channel Four’s Paralympic coverage and so there’s a 30-second flit to the basketball court where Great Britain’s women are taking on Argentina. They are winning comfortably (finally sealing a whopping 79-20 victory but we don’t actually get to see that happen) so we’re off again, back to the swimming pool where Sascha Kindred goes in the 50m butterfly for S6 athletes. At 38 years of age Kindred is in the twilight of his career but became something of a household name after winning six gold medals across three Paralympics in Sydney, Athens and Beijing. He took as silver in London and although his star is fading somewhat he still manages to qualify in second place behind the splendidly monikered Colombian Nelson Crispin Corzo.

In the womens event Ellie Robinson, 15 year-old Ellie Robinson, storms to victory to book her place in the final. What is it with Paralympians called Ellie. Robinson is short in stature, called Ellie, and extremely fast in the water. Reminds me of someone…..What it actually reminds me of is that advert in which Ms Simmonds tells Jack Whitehall not to come near her in his Speedos. And who can blame her? Speedos are a blemish.

Next there is another gold for GB in the velodrome where Sophie Thornhill and her pilot Helen Scott smash the Paralympic record in the Class B tandem 1000m time trial. It’s a ride which gives them the lead at the expense of the Australians. Always nice to get one over on the Australians whatever the sport. Only the Dutch can stop Scott and Thornill now but they fail to do so as GB secure yet more cycling success. It’s what we do, isn’t it?

The news isn’t so good for T35 100m sprinter Jordan Howe who is disqualified from his heat for a false start. He’s disconsolate and why wouldn’t you be if after four years of hard work you’d lost it all from being a little over eager? In years gone by he would have been given a second chance but the rules are pretty ruthless now. One false move and you are gone. If Howe can take anything from this it is that is probably unlikely to happen to him again. Once bitten….

Stef Reid jumps 5.64 in the women’s T44 long jump. It puts her into the lead but her mark is eclipsed by France’s Marie-Amelie Le Fur who lands a mark of 5.75. She betters that to 5.83 and Reid cannot respond and has to settle for silver. Commentator Katherine Merry tells us how good the competition has been but we’ve been bouncing around between the track, the pool and the velodrome so much that we have only seen four jumps in the entire final. Reid’s interview reveals a distinctly Canadian accent. She’s the wife of Canada’s T54 sprinter Brent Lakatos and moved to Canada at the age of four. She qualifies to represent Great Britain by virtue of her English mother and Scottish father and well, we’ll take medal contending athletes where we can get them. Does anyone think Mo Farah was born in London? Does anyone think he even lives there?

What do we think of the term parahoney? I see it used on Twitter by former Lancashire and England batsman Graeme Fowler (ha, the people I follow….) and I’m not sure what to make of it. It is meant as a compliment to Reid and Fowler adds the caveat that if you are offended you have missed the point. I get where he is coming from but if he has taken a fancy to her (and why not, she’s a bit of alright you’d probably say) why can he not just say that? Why isn’t she just a honey, if indeed the term ‘honey’ is still acceptable in a modern, pc-gone-bonkers type of society? It’s almost as if the inclusion of the prefix ‘para’ devalues her honeydom in some way. Maybe I’m being paranoid. Maybe I myself am revealing my lazy prejudices by pointing this out. Either way it just troubles me a tad that a has-been international cricketer can’t express a liking for a female athlete without making it at least partly about her disability.

We go back to the pool where the one-armed marvel that is Stephanie Slater qualifies in second place for the final of the S8 100m butterfly behind Ukraine’s Kateryna Istomina. We are only offered the last length or two of the 400m S9 heats in both the men’s and women’s event, but we get to see Lewis White finish second behind Italian Federico Morlacchi and the 18-year-old Jonathan Booth get through as runner up to Australia’s Brenden Hall. Amy Marren had two fourth-placed finishes in London 2012 and starts her bid to put that right by winning her heat to make it through to the final of the women’s event.

We finish on the track where Libby Clegg sets a new world record in the T11 100m of 11.92 seconds in qualifying for the final. She’s only the second female athlete ever to go under 12.00 in this classification. How fast is she going to run when she gets there? Will she even get there? As she crosses the line there is no sign yet of the controversy to come which threatens to leave Clegg’s Paralympic bid in tatters.

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