i Editor's Letter: Awesome doesn't come close


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The Independent Online


What type of person in what kind of mood wakes up one day and decides: even though I don't have any arms, I am going to be a swimmer; and not just that, a Paralympian swimmer, one that competes in the backstroke?

Well, thanks to day one of the Games I can now name at least three: Ukraine's Iaroslav Semenenko, and China's Lu Dong and Zheng Tao, whose feats yesterday left all of us watching with mouths agape until, that is, we winced when they got to the end of their races and banged their heads against the finish wall. No need to wince for Lu Dong – she broke the world record on her way to gold.

What type of person contemplates life with an amputated leg and decides they are going to be a Paralympic cyclist? Tobias Graf, the German bronze-medal winner yesterday is one such person. Jaw-dropping isn't the half of it.

Up against such seemingly insurmountable odds and indefatigable characters, cyclist Sarah Storey's "disability" doesn't seem huge, but you try living with it! If you didn't know, she was born without a functioning left hand after her arm got tangled with her umbilical chord in the womb.

Yesterday, the amazing Storey won Paralympics GB's first gold medal of the Games. She is used to winning. It was her eighth gold, to add to eight silvers and three bronzes won at the Barcelona, Atlanta, Sydney, Athens and Beijing Games. Even more remarkable to me is that before Beijing her medals were won in swimming until a persistent ear infection forced her out of the pool. She caught her pursuit rival yesterday half-way through the race. Awesome doesn't come close.