The Games of the XXX Olympiad have ended in London as millions around the world cheered, cried, admired, and—in the end—were inspired by the world’s top competitors. There is nothing like the Olympic Games to bring out the best in every nation in terms of both athletics and human relations.
But wait: It could be argued that the best is yet to come. Beginning on August 29, the same Olympic venues in London will be the stage of the XIV Paralympic Games. More than 4,200 athletes with varying physical disabilities, representing 160 countries, will compete in 20 sports.
The courage, resolve, and resiliency of these men and women defy the limits of our language. In dealing with the pressures and complexities of daily life, in addition to the rigors of their chosen sports, Paralympians do more than persevere—they thrive.
By the time these games are over on September 9, all of us should have shed any excuses we may be harboring for not getting more physically active and taking other steps that we know will improve our health.
Among the most popular of the Paralympic sports are track and field, with 1,100 athletes; swimming, with 600 participants; table tennis, with 276 players; and wheelchair basketball, with 264 competitors. In track and field, you may want to catch South Africa’s Oscar Pistorious, a runner who competed in the London Olympics with carbon blades in place of his feet, which were amputated when he was 11 months old.
Other Paralympic sports include cycling (225 participants), powerlifting (200), volleyball (198), archery and shooting (140 each), goalball and judo (132 each), and tennis (112).
Rounding out the list are boccia (104), fencing (100), rugby (96), seven-per-side soccer (96), rowing (96), sailing (80), equestrian (78), and five-per-side soccer (64).
As we enjoy the competition of the 2012 Paralympics, I hope we renew our resolve to “walk our talk” of disease prevention and health promotion: to get active, eat right, and control our weight; to practice the ABCS of heart health; to get current on our medical and dental checkups; and to work to improve the environments in our communities to make healthy living easier for everyone.