Shelagh Fogarty: Some mothers do have 'em – nerves that is

Alastair Hignell said that he was overwhelmed by the scale and variety

So Baroness Tanni Grey-Thompson can fly as well as race. Her descent from the heavens in a gold wheelchair at the Opening Ceremony for the London 2012 Paralympic Games was my "Good evening, Mr Bond" moment. The sheer glee on her face acted as a kind of start button for the Games as far as I'm concerned.

On the first full day of the Paralympics she joined me on the radio for two hours outside the Olympic Park, surrounded by the thousands of people who had come to see some top-class sport. They weren't disappointed. Two world records set on the first morning of action – Jonathan Fox in the pool and Sarah Storey, a former swimmer turned cyclist, in the velodrome. Storey went on to add a gold medal around her neck to her record.

No escape from the cruelty of sport, Paralympian or not. Great Britain's Di Coates (pictured above) did not fare well in the shooting and Ben Quilter fell below his usual world-beating standard in the judo.

Judo is the only martial art in the Paralympics and our record is good so hopes were high. As it is a sport for visually impaired athletes at the Paralympics, the only real difference between this and the Olympic version is that the two judokas start by gripping each other in order to get their bearings.

On air, on Radio 5 Live, with Tanni, we spoke to Ben's brother Lee and to the mother of a wheelchair basketball player. Not surprisingly, it turns out mothers get nervous but brothers, well this particular brother, was there to talk to his athlete sibling about anything but judo! Either way, family support is at the heart of any sporting success at this level. Every Paralympian will tell you of a committed parent, a generous friend, a cajoling teacher – people who see something in them and want to help it fly.

We spoke to Lee Pearson, who is snapping at Tanni's heels when it comes to the number of gold medals he has won. Nine in three Games for him in dressage to date and no reason to believe he cannot add to that.

One former team-mate, Ricky Balshaw, told me about Pearson's extraordinary mental strength. Pearson himself just wanted to tell us how much his horse, Gentleman, gets on his nerves. Whatever the chemistry between man and beast, let's hope it works.

Alastair Hignell – former England rugby player and first-class cricketer – joined us too. He knows better than most what the body can do, having excelled at two such different sports before a diagnosis of MS more than a decade ago changed his life. A first-timer at the Paralympics, he said he was overwhelmed by the scale and variety of the event. He is hopeful that London 2012 can change attitudes to disability. He has said in the past that his experience has shown him more about the kindness of people than the cruelty but Grey-Thompson reminds us that disability hate crime is still all too real in the UK.

I can't say how far or deep the Paralympic Games' impact will go when it comes to changing hearts and minds, but anyone who comes here has to be struck by the obvious difference in the very nature of the gathering to most others they'll have experienced before. Disabled people are not only more visible, spectators included, they are in a sense the stars of the show. The thousands of non-disabled schoolchildren here will rarely see so many examples of "different to me" in one place.

It's inevitable, surely, that that will inform how they behave now and in the future, towards a disabled person. But it's only once every four years. Does the door close in our minds after that, I wonder. I hope not.

News
Jennifer Lawrence was among the stars allegedly hacked
peopleActress and 100 others on 'master list' after massive hack
Sport
Radamel Falcao
footballManchester United agree loan deal for Monaco striker Falcao
Sport
Louis van Gaal, Radamel Falcao, Arturo Vidal, Mats Hummels and Javier Hernandez
footballFalcao, Hernandez, Welbeck and every deal live as it happens
Sport
footballFeaturing Bart Simpson
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
people'It can last and it's terrifying'
Voices
A man shoots at targets depicting a portrait of Russian President Vladimir Putin, in a shooting range in the center of the western Ukrainian city of Lviv
voicesIt's cowardice to pretend this is anything other than an invasion
News
i100
Arts and Entertainment
Alex Kapranos of Franz Ferdinand performs live
music Pro-independence show to take place four days before vote
Arts and Entertainment
booksNovelist takes aim at Orwell's rules for writing plain English
Arts and Entertainment
The eyes have it: Kate Bush
music
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Day In a Page

Alexander Fury: The designer names to look for at fashion week this season

The big names to look for this fashion week

This week, designers begin to show their spring 2015 collections in New York
Will Self: 'I like Orwell's writing as much as the next talented mediocrity'

'I like Orwell's writing as much as the next talented mediocrity'

Will Self takes aim at Orwell's rules for writing plain English
Meet Afghanistan's middle-class paint-ballers

Meet Afghanistan's middle-class paint-ballers

Toy guns proving a popular diversion in a country flooded with the real thing
Al Pacino wows Venice

Al Pacino wows Venice

Ham among the brilliance as actor premieres two films at festival
Neil Lawson Baker interview: ‘I’ve gained so much from art. It’s only right to give something back’.

Neil Lawson Baker interview

‘I’ve gained so much from art. It’s only right to give something back’.
The other Mugabe who is lining up for the Zimbabwean presidency

The other Mugabe who is lining up for the Zimbabwean presidency

Wife of President Robert Mugabe appears to have her sights set on succeeding her husband
The model of a gadget launch: Cultivate an atmosphere of mystery and excitement to sell stuff people didn't realise they needed

The model for a gadget launch

Cultivate an atmosphere of mystery and excitement to sell stuff people didn't realise they needed
Alice Roberts: She's done pretty well, for a boffin without a beard

She's done pretty well, for a boffin without a beard

Alice Roberts talks about her new book on evolution - and why her early TV work drew flak from (mostly male) colleagues
Get well soon, Joan Rivers - an inspiration, whether she likes it or not

Get well soon, Joan Rivers

She is awful. But she's also wonderful, not in spite of but because of the fact she's forever saying appalling things, argues Ellen E Jones
Doctor Who Into the Dalek review: A classic sci-fi adventure with all the spectacle of a blockbuster

A fresh take on an old foe

Doctor Who Into the Dalek more than compensated for last week's nonsensical offering
Fashion walks away from the celebrity runway show

Fashion walks away from the celebrity runway show

As the collections start, fashion editor Alexander Fury finds video and the internet are proving more attractive
Meet the stars of TV's Wolf Hall... and it's not the cast of the Tudor trilogy

Meet the stars of TV's Wolf Hall...

... and it's not the cast of the Tudor trilogy
Weekend at the Asylum: Europe's biggest steampunk convention heads to Lincoln

Europe's biggest steampunk convention

Jake Wallis Simons discovers how Victorian ray guns and the martial art of biscuit dunking are precisely what the 21st century needs
Don't swallow the tripe – a user's guide to weasel words

Don't swallow the tripe – a user's guide to weasel words

Lying is dangerous and unnecessary. A new book explains the strategies needed to avoid it. John Rentoul on the art of 'uncommunication'
Daddy, who was Richard Attenborough? Was the beloved thespian the last of the cross-generation stars?

Daddy, who was Richard Attenborough?

The atomisation of culture means that few of those we regard as stars are universally loved any more, says DJ Taylor