Enjoy the drama and focus on the ability, not disability

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The Independent Online

It is pointless to pretend not to be interested in the thousands of extraordinary roads that have led this week to Stratford, from all over the world. Or that the background stories of the individuals gathered in the stadium last night do not matter.

It's also pointless to pretend that the Paralympic Games are only about elite sport, and nothing else. The founder of the Games, Dr Ludwig Guttman, never thought that. We don't approach phenomenal achievement in non-disabled sport, or anything in life, in such a fashion, and we will always admire more someone who has worked unimaginably hard to get where they are. The Paralympics are most definitely not about courage or bravery, although that is not going to stop us being moved by those virtues.

But then, one of the great attractions of sport, like nothing else, is that there is a time, and an often unbelievably brief one, after the gun fires, or the whistle blows or the bell rings for round one, that all that just goes out the window, and in its place is nothing but the thrill of the contest.

We will be moved by the next week and a half, but we will be gripped too by the drama.

"Focus on the ability, not the disability," has long been the mantra of single-amputee sprinter Jerome Singleton. In Beijing four years ago, he was 25 metres ahead of the great Paralympian Oscar Pistorius, in the 100-metre final, with less than 50 metres to go, but the South African reeled him in and passed him on the line, as Singleton's face transformed into a vision of exertion and anguish; heartbroken and without breath.

This time round, the two men will also have to contend with Great Britain's 19-year-old sprinting sensation Jonnie Peacock, pictured, who ran sub-11 seconds earlier this year, breaking Pistorius's world record.

When the gun fires next Thursday, there will be that same agony and ecstasy. Pistorius has simply said: "Bring it on." Where the Masai tribesman David Rudisha left his rivals trailing three weeks ago to obliterate the 800-metre world record, this weekend will bring Great Britain's phenomenal wheelchair racer David Weir, eyes fixed on the first corner, sweeping past the Olympic Flame amid the same deafening roar. Tattooed on his chest is a Japanese symbol meaning "To win". If his body defines him, it is that, not the spinal cord transection he was born with.

And next Saturday, for the final time this summer, Oscar Pistorius will come bounding down the home straight in the 400-metre final, as he has done many times already, in the Olympic semi-final, and the 4 x 400m relay final.

Doing so, he will realise the dream of Dr Guttman, in front of his daughter, that a Para-athlete might race against his Olympic counterparts. And then, that will be it. The Olympic circus will move on.