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.

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Life and Style
Powdered colors are displayed for sale at a market ahead of the Holi festival in Bhopal, India
techHere's what you need to know about the riotous occasion
Arts and Entertainment
Larry David and Rosie Perez in ‘Fish in the Dark’
theatreReview: Had Fish in the Dark been penned by a civilian it would have barely got a reading, let alone £10m advance sales
News
Details of the self-cleaning coating were published last night in the journal Science
science
News
Approved Food sell products past their sell-by dates at discounted prices
i100
News
Life-changing: Simone de Beauvoir in 1947, two years before she wrote 'The Second Sex', credited as the starting point of second wave feminism
peopleHer seminal feminist polemic, The Second Sex, has been published in short-form to mark International Women's Day
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

Homeless Veterans campaign: Donations hit record-breaking £1m target after £300,000 gift from Lloyds Bank

Homeless Veterans campaign

Donations hit record-breaking £1m target after huge gift from Lloyds Bank
Flight MH370 a year on: Lost without a trace – but the search goes on

Lost without a trace

But, a year on, the search continues for Flight MH370
Germany's spymasters left red-faced after thieves break into brand new secret service HQ and steal taps

Germany's spy HQ springs a leak

Thieves break into new €1.5bn complex... to steal taps
International Women's Day 2015: Celebrating the whirlwind wit of Simone de Beauvoir

Whirlwind wit of Simone de Beauvoir

Simone de Beauvoir's seminal feminist polemic, 'The Second Sex', has been published in short-form for International Women's Day
Mark Zuckerberg’s hiring policy might suit him – but it wouldn’t work for me

Mark Zuckerberg’s hiring policy might suit him – but it wouldn’t work for me

Why would I want to employ someone I’d be happy to have as my boss, asks Simon Kelner
Confessions of a planespotter: With three Britons under arrest in the UAE, the perils have never been more apparent

Confessions of a planespotter

With three Britons under arrest in the UAE, the perils have never been more apparent. Sam Masters explains the appeal
Russia's gulag museum 'makes no mention' of Stalin's atrocities

Russia's gulag museum

Ministry of Culture-run site 'makes no mention' of Stalin's atrocities
The big fresh food con: Alarming truth behind the chocolate muffin that won't decay

The big fresh food con

Joanna Blythman reveals the alarming truth behind the chocolate muffin that won't decay
Virginia Ironside was my landlady: What is it like to live with an agony aunt on call 24/7?

Virginia Ironside was my landlady

Tim Willis reveals what it's like to live with an agony aunt on call 24/7
Paris Fashion Week 2015: The wit and wisdom of Manish Arora's exercise in high camp

Paris Fashion Week 2015

The wit and wisdom of Manish Arora's exercise in high camp
8 best workout DVDs

8 best workout DVDs

If your 'New Year new you' regime hasn’t lasted beyond February, why not try working out from home?
Paul Scholes column: I don't believe Jonny Evans was spitting at Papiss Cissé. It was a reflex. But what the Newcastle striker did next was horrible

Paul Scholes column

I don't believe Evans was spitting at Cissé. It was a reflex. But what the Newcastle striker did next was horrible
Miguel Layun interview: From the Azteca to Vicarage Road with a million followers

From the Azteca to Vicarage Road with a million followers

Miguel Layun is a star in Mexico where he was criticised for leaving to join Watford. But he says he sees the bigger picture
Frank Warren column: Amir Khan ready to meet winner of Floyd Mayweather v Manny Pacquiao

Khan ready to meet winner of Mayweather v Pacquiao

The Bolton fighter is unlikely to take on Kell Brook with two superstar opponents on the horizon, says Frank Warren
War with Isis: Iraq's government fights to win back Tikrit from militants - but then what?

Baghdad fights to win back Tikrit from Isis – but then what?

Patrick Cockburn reports from Kirkuk on a conflict which sectarianism has made intractable