Half Man Half Machine (what does it mean?)

Well what a difference a year makes, this time last year I was stuck in the house due to tons of snow. I was trying desperately to stay in peak condition for the coming World Championships by doing various exercises in my bedroom with a single 2kg dumbbell. Thankfully so far this winter there have been no such weather related dramas and I’ve been able to get on with training quite happily – well, when I say happily I obviously mean whinging like hell after every brutal session, mostly to Rachel who gives back minimal sympathy. I guess it is my job, but everyone moans about their job at the end of the day.

I’m very much looking forward to the new year, when I’ll start throwing my big balls around – medicine balls, in case you were wondering. Then by the spring I’ll be starting to try and remember how to throw again, which is always an exciting time after months of dumbbell war in the gym. Before then though there’s plenty of body pounding work to get stuck into.

There’s been plenty of discussion around the results of a recent Scope survey where the results suggested only 18% of disabled people are excited about the Paralympics and 65% think the Paralympics should be combined with the Olympics. I’m not one to shy away from an opinion, so here it is, look away now if you don’t want to know it.

Firstly, I’d like to reiterate a point that has been raised with me, that the survey sample was very small and could in no way be representative of all disabled people in the country. So with that in mind, I’m pretty confident that most disabled people especially young disabled people are excited and inspired by the Paralympics. In my experience watching someone with similar impairments doing things you might not think possible creates a great connection and renews belief. In terms of combining the two, I’m completely against it and make no secret of my belief that integration between disability sport and able-bodied sport doesn’t generally work. I think if anything this survey highlights the need once again to convey the complexities of Paralympic sport more effectively to the general public so they can understand what is going on before they watch. Channel 4 are currently doing a great job of presenting all the sports and athletes.

However, Paralympic sport is complex, and you can’t really change that, and I wouldn’t want to change that – the beauty of the Paralympics is that it caters for a massive range of disabilities, allowing fair competition between people with a similar impairment and whom can’t compete with able-bodied athletes, certainly not to Olympic standard. That is how I view the Paralympics, the latter part is a bit fuzzy at the moment, especially with what Oscar Pistorious is achieving in sport. The question is should you be able to compete at both Olympics and Paralympics, it’s a similar argument to the integration discussion, so I don’t really agree with it. It comes down to the fact that it works on a very specific level in certain circumstances but it can never be wholly inclusive, any integration would result in exclusive disability events/sports/athletes being chosen to take part, and that would massively harm disability sport.

The IPC are already cutting events and classes in the Paralympics to make it more accessible to the watching public, but there is a danger that we start to lose what makes it uniquely great by doing that. We don’t want a situation where the Paralympics becomes almost like the Olympic B event and remember why the Paralympics was founded. It should be the pinnacle of any disabled athlete’s career to compete at the Paralympics, which is why I believe if a disabled athlete can compete at the Olympics, they should not need to compete at the Paralympics.

I might be completely biased, and I am, but for me there is something awe-inspiring about watching guys who would struggle to make a cup of tea or tie their shoe laces throw a club over 25 and 30 metres. In the Paralympics there are endless events like this that make it so special to watch, and combining it with the Olympics would dramatically water this down. What we need to say is yeah, to watch Paralympic sport you might need to do a bit of homework on classification and rules to get it, but once you gain an understanding you will enjoy watching it – I think that’s pretty true of any sport.

Anyway, on a similar note of inspiring disabled people. I was back at Remploy recently to unveil a plaque marking the opening of their new showroom at Newcastle. I also helped to launch their baton relay, which tied in with the International Day of Disabled People on December the 3rd. The idea is to spread positive stories about disabled people and the great things they’ve achieved. To find out more and get involved go to http://www.facebook.com/Remploy – where photos and stories are being posted. Here are some photos of me receiving the baton from David Gooding and with other inspiring disabled people and employees at Remploy.

That’s all from me, next time you here from me we’ll be in the year 2012 – OMG!

Have a sexy Christmas and a dirty new year.

P.S If you haven’t seen my advert for Channel 4, it is here http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sBKKPUCdsOw


One thought on “Half Man Half Machine (what does it mean?)

  1. Kevan Baker OBE

    Stephen. Entirely agree with your comments and sentiments regarding the discussion on integration of the Paralympics and Olympics. I have had similar views for years, since the debate (that I was involved with) took place at the IPC many years ago. The Paralympics has always, and always will, stand as a wonderful sporting spectacular and doesn’t need the Olympics!! Plus on a jocular note – I have always believed that the Olympics is simply a ‘rehearsal’ to ensure that everything is working properly before the main event – the Paralympics, begins. All the very best for 2012 – I will the there watching you. Kevan Baker OBE

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