Martin Dougan: A day of action to match thrills of the opening ceremony

You've got Usain Bolt and Jessica Ennis. Now people are even starting to realise it's OK to fancy disabled people

Martin Dougan
Thursday 30 August 2012 23:15 BST

One day in and we have had world records smashed right from the word go, by Nyree Kindred in the pool and Sarah Storey in the velodrome.

It's all so fitting after such an incredible opening ceremony. The reception to yesterday's successes and the plaudits for the opening ceremony go to show that Britain is a country that is ready to make disabled people celebrities and to really hold up disabled sport to the international spotlight.

You've got your Usain Bolt, your David Beckham, your Jessica Ennis, but now we have a new set of poster boys and girls.

People are even starting to realise that it's OK to fancy a disabled person. When Edwina Currie said the Italian team looked "gorgeous – even in their wheelchairs", my first reaction was to laugh. Saying "even" implied she was of the mindset that if you are in a wheelchair, you're not desirable. Well, we won't be thinking that any more after these Games.

I don't think it was patronising. Patronising would have been to look and say: "Oh, aren't they doing well against the odds." She's looked and she's seen some hotties in wheelchairs – total respect to her for saying it!

There will be plenty more athletes catching eyes, just like them. No doubt we will be seeing Sarah Storey on her fair share of posters soon and I've got high hopes for sprinter Johnny Peacock. He could beat Oscar Pistorius to the 100m gold – and he's not a bad looking lad either. He could be a massive celebrity. Jade Jones will be turning heads in the wheelchair racing and of course, the clash between GB's Ellie Simmonds and her American rival Victoria Arlen is going to be gripping.

There will be new stars and new role models from these Games.

When I was at primary school I couldn't do PE because I was disabled – I was born with cerebral palsy. Now kids that age come up to me in the street asking if I'm in the Paralympics – they know about it, they know that disabled people are as capable of being athletes as able-bodied people are. These Games will only add to the perception that there aren't Paralympic athletes and able-bodied athletes – there are just athletes. It is fitting because Britain is the home of Paralympic sport – we've always been ready and open to challenge perceptions. It has hardly even started and already this is looking like being the greatest ever Paralympics. We've always been ready to think differently and we've always been ready for this.

Martin Dougan, 24, is a Paralympics presenter for Channel 4 and former captain of Scotland's wheelchair basketball team

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