Two veteran Paralympians – with contrasting personalities – have spoken of their passion for their sports as they prepare to compete at London 2012.
Clare Strange has been playing wheelchair basketball since 1998 and will be taking part in her fourth Paralympic Games.
The former management consultant, one of the many current and retired Paralympians who earn income from giving “inspirational” speeches at conferences and other events, is predicting “close-fought battles” in the women’s wheelchair basketball competition, with any one of the eight teams capable of winning a medal.
She said: “It really is going to be who performs at the right time on the right day. I think that’s really exciting. It is going to be a massive showcase for the sport.”
She says she is “passionate” about wheelchair basketball and is determined to help her team “push the boundaries of what is possible” and refuse to accept “average”, and “really deliver what I know it is capable of in London”.
Strange is convinced that the crowd could play a “massive” part in helping the British team towards a medal.
“When you are playing you can’t hear them, you are in the zone,” she says. “If you are hearing them, you are not focused.”
But there are frequent breaks in play, she says, for example after every score. “That’s when you will hear the crowd. In that moment, in a close match when momentum can swing, I think it can have a big impact.”
Strange says she is excited about the possibility of London 2012 “changing the attitude of the world to disability”.
It is, she admits, a “pretty hefty goal”, but she thinks the games could lead to a “shift in perception of what is possible”.
It is, she says, about “finding something you are passionate about in your life and following your dreams”.
Louise Simpson, who has been part of Britain’s international goalball team since 1996, is just as passionate as Strange about her sport – she describes herself as “focused and ambitious” – but is content to let her sporting performance do most of the talking.
She told Disability News Service that she hates media interviews, and insists she is “not really a campaigner”, although she says she hopes disabled people “will get some motivation from [London 2012] not to let their disability stop them”.
Simpson says she loves the excitement of goalball, a sport designed for blind athletes, in which two teams compete to throw a bell-filled ball into their opponents’ goal.
Simpson says she loves the “fast-moving” sport because it demands that players are “always alert” and have “high concentration levels” as they constantly track the location of the ball.
She makes just one confession: the last time she cried because of losing a goalball game was in 2007.
When asked whether she would cry if the team lost at London 2012, her reply is blunt: “We are not going to lose.”
Britain’s women’s wheelchair basketball team play their first London 2012 match against the Netherlands at 1pm on 30 August.
The women’s goalball team start their medal quest with a match against China at 6.30pm on 30 August.
14 August 2012