Sophie Morgan: The public's response has driven our athletes to even greater heights
The most exciting thing is we'll all have a better understanding of disability
Monday 03 September 2012
I've been interviewing the parents and families of the athletes and it's been amazing to hear some of the stories of the competitors and to learn about where they've come from. The level of support they need is much more than I imagined. The athletes have a lot to deal with in their everyday lives, apart from the training and dedication they need to compete. So it's great to see mums and dads enjoying their success with them.
We met Sophie Warner's husband and their two children. They are the most gorgeous family unit. Sophie has cerebral palsy, which affects the motor control of her limbs. She competes in the 100 and 200 metres. Because it is difficult for her to control her limbs, her husband, Haydn, trains with her every day. She runs beside him and is able to feel the rhythm from him. It's amazing to know they do that.
The public response to the Games has been incredible. I'm not surprised that Channel 4 has had record viewing figures. I didn't expect it, but I did hope. They've been talking about disability in the most down-to-earth and natural way. I know that they didn't want to hide from anything; they wanted to be as blunt and honest as they could. So I knew it was going to be ground-breaking.
It's interesting to think about the psychological side of sport. You can't overestimate the importance for these athletes of having, for the first time, so many spectators, rather than just their trainers and family watching. There are no words for the effect it has on them and their performance. Half of them have never competed in front of a crowd. I don't know how it feels in the Olympic Stadium to have the crowd erupt like that. The support for Derek Derenalagi – the discus thrower who lost his legs in Afghanistan – was wonderful even though he missed out on a medal.
I think the different classifications can be confusing at first, but the more people watch, the more they learn about them. I do agree with Stef Reid, however, who said it was "disappointing" to break the world long jump record and still win only silver because of the points system. I have heard a number of athletes complain about how the classifications can make their race more difficult. It needs to be looked at. But the discussion is part of the maturing of the Games. I'm much more interested in the way that we will all have a much better understanding of disability afterwards. That's the most exciting thing in all of this. And I'm looking forward to more tears of joy, and more medals, next week.
Sophie Morgan is a Paralympics presenter for Channel 4
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