The Paralympics

The swimming websites I frequent have recently been reporting on the results of the Paralympics competitions. I'd never really paid those much attention, to be honest. There are so many categories of disabilities that it's hard to get a sense of what time is good for each category. And I'd always assumed that the competition wouldn't be that tough given that the smaller number of competitors in each category.

On top of that, I, like most, was taught from an early age not to stare, and may have had residual inhibitions from that; even now, I can't entirely escape a vague feeling of ghoulishness when watching videos of these athletes.

But I'm glad that people with disabilities have their own meet to compete in. (Masters swimming, which I compete in, is really no different, except that our disability is age; and we, too, have gradations depending on how severe our handicap is.)

Anyway, I finally took a closer look at the Paralympics. Some of the performances are very impressive.

Jessica Long, who is sort of a poster girl for the sport, had both legs amputated right below the knee when she was a baby. She recently set a world record in the women's 200 meter individual medley for her category with a 2:36.0.

Think about how hard it is to swim a 200 meter long course IM that fast as it is. Then imagine how hard it would be with her disability.


I was unable to find a video of her swimming that didn't include the obligatory triumph-of-the-human-spirit cliches along with accompanying sappy music, so I won't burden you with any of those. But Long is a tremendous swimmer -- and quite pretty to boot.

However, here's a video of a group of men, several of whom have only one arm, swimming a 100 meter butterfly in 1:01 and 1:02, which is faster than I can go these days:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4xVydkIcxxo&feature=related

(I'm not sure why they were competing against a guy with both arms.)

When one-armed swimmers can beat me at my best event, I guess I have to pay attention.