During my short time involved in the Paralympic movement I've learned lots of things. The more I listen to our Para-athletes the more I hear them reflect on being told repeatedly throughout their lives what can't be done. One overarching theme of the Paralympic Games is demonstrating emphatically what can be achieved and it is brilliant to watch because of it.
Japan must have grappled with what might have seemed impossible and in the end pulled off a great Olympic and Paralympic Games during a pandemic. Within our Australian Paralympic Team, where I was Performance Support Manager for the Games, we grappled in the lead up with whether or not we could ensure the safety of our team. So, we embarked on a bold plan to do things differently - we mandated everyone get vaccinated, we avoided the dining hall and catered for 350 people within our own means, we built our own gymnasium within our allotment at the Games, and implemented testing and safety protocols over and above the requirements of the Games organisers. It took a lot of planning, some extraordinary efforts from professionals within our team, and ultimately for everyone, regardless of their profession, to roll up their sleeves and help each other out. We had doctors making hundreds of chicken wraps, nurses emptying bins, and physiotherapists filling the fridge with tens of thousands of waters. I walk away so proud of what our team achieved and most importantly how we went about it.
We are also better for the challenge. We learned that there are physical performance advantages of not going to the dining hall and having your own gym right there at your disposal. Due to our strict protocols we had very few illness presentations during the Games. Not every change we implemented for Tokyo will be taken into Beijing 2022 or Paris 2024 however I am certain we have made some big leaps in Games Performance Support delivery as a result of stretching ourselves at these Games.
On the individual level our Para-athletes get told what they can't do all the time. One of my biggest lessons from this experience is to focus on what we can.