Sunday, 11 September 2016

Paralympics 2016 - Day 1 Continues

In my last look at all things Paralympic I complained about the lack of coverage given to the women's wheelchair basketball game between Great Britain and Canada. Channel 4 go some way to atoning for this by showing far more of the GB Men's opener against Algeria. Well, either they are atoning for it or they are displaying blatant sexism by affording the men more coverage. You pays your money.....

Whatever the gender of the players our commentary team of Ronald MacIntosh and Dan Johnson are having trouble identifying the Algerian players. The scoreboards displayed in the arena do not match the names printed on the backs of the Algerian shirts, in particular the number seven. To avoid anything embarrassing like looking like they don't know what they are doing, MacIntosh and Johnson refer to him only as 'number seven'. This makes him sound like a character in a remake of The Prisoner with Patrick McGoohan. I am not a number. The mix-up is constantly referred to throughout the coverage, which is interrupted midway through the third quarter and resumed with around five minutes to play in the fourth. Unlike the women's game this isn't a close affair. There's no doubt about the outcome so it's slightly less annoying when the coverage is halted. Before we leave GB's 60-odd point victory we learn that Simon Munn is competing in his seventh Paralympics, having been selected for every one since the 1992 event in Barcelona. That's a phenomenal record by anyone's standards. In 1992 I was struggling to find the motivation to turn up for a 12-hour week at Carmel College and was about to meet my first proper girlfriend. There may or may not be a direct correlation between this and my eventual failure to join Munn in a GB squad. But that's pure speculation...

You won't be surprised at this point to learn that Munn is another former team-mate of mine. I don't know if he ever learned my name. He used to call me 'little un' which, while factually difficult to dispute, is not the most respectful of monikers. Yet not as bad as an old coach I had when I moved on to Sheffield (I spread my failure across the north of England) who insisted on calling me Pete. He still did when our paths crossed again years later. I didn't get on all that well with Terry Bywater either when we were together at those 1997 World Junior Championships I might have mentioned once or twice. I realise I could be the common denominator here but he really was a pain in the arse. To be fair to him he was only 14 years old at the time. He's come a long way since then, not only developing into one of GB's key players but also someone able to articulate his and his team's efforts in a highly impressive post-match interview. He also looks older than Munn! He's mature and knowledgable now, whereas if he'd been interviewed after one of our games in Toronto he'd have just quoted Chubby Brown.

Away from my angst and back in Rio we are taken to the stadium where Sammi Kinghorn goes for Great Britain in the women's T53 100m heats. Kinghorn finishes a long way behind the winner but there's no shame in that given that the victorious Chinese athlete smashes the world record. Kinghorn is good enough to qualify for the final in second place in this category for wheelchair users with full use of their arms but with limited or no trunk function. I'd probably be a T53 if I was a track athlete rather than a university administrator and pretend writer.

Following Sammi we get a more extended version of that GB v Canada game in the women's game. It's a reasonable highlights edit which just leaves me wondering why, if they planned on showing it at this point, did they give away the result in the earlier broadcast which featured so little of the action? For those who missed it the Canadians won it 43-36 which represents a more than decent effort by the GB side against the current world champions. It's a losing start but there is much to be optimistic about for the remainder of the group games.

The broadcast finishes with a spot of table tennis as GB's Ashley Facey-Thompson takes on Spaniard Juan Bautista Perez Gonzalez in the SM9 category for athletes with weakness or immobility in one leg. Appearing in his first Paralympics after missing out on selection for London 2012 Facey-Thompson endures a chastening debut as Perez Gonzalez wins it by three games to nil. Yet the 21-year old will no doubt have learned much from this group opener and have gained valuable experience from it.

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