sales serif;”>cheap serif;”>Channel 4 asked us to “Meet the super humans” in their fantastic coverage of the London 2012 Paralympic games; an apt narrative to shape in a summer where comic books dominated the silver screen. Many of the competitors were once mild mannered civilians whose lives were changed in an instant and they must struggle with what was before and what they are now able to do. Others were born into the life they lead and the differences between them and others.
If they began the games as super humans many of the Irish team, through their fantastic performance, surely return as super heroes. The assembled squad of super men and wonder women performed marvellously bringing home sixteen medals including eight gold.
Top of the league for Ireland is the fastest paralympian in the world Jason Smyth who won both the 100m and 200m in world record breaking times. Westmeath speed racer and UCD graduate Mark Rohan also won double gold on his bike in hand cycling. Ireland’s third double gold winner was the incredible Michael McKillop who won his medals over both 800m and 1500m.
It was V for victory at the aquatic centre as girl wonder Beth Firth left them for dead in the pool winning her 100m backstroke race and aqua man Darragh McDonald flashed by the competition in his 400m freestyle race.
The main characters of this particular novel are always going to be those that added to the medal tally, especially if with gold, but every athlete has been through their own pains and come out the other end the hero of their own story.
As the time passes the heroics may fade for the rest of us as the Paralympians return to the day to day, the mundane, under the cover of anonymity, but inside the Olympic fire will burn and they themselves and those close to them will know, for those two weeks, they were indeed super.
It is easy to get carried away with this narrative of the different; the special; the other but of course what is more important is sameness that connects people. Sport has a special magic of its own to melt away the clutter that is appearance and bring to the fore the universalities of pain and joy and everything in between. Whether super heroes or super humans or merely just humans at some level we are all infected with the need to compete, grasping at the notion of improving ourselves, trying to be a better me.
– Ciaran Carey