With just one day to go before the Paralympics kick off in London, we take a look back at the origins of the Games, and a look ahead at what lies in store for Britain’s most talented Paralympians.
In the beginning
The origins of the Paralympic movement can be traced back to the last London Olympic Games in 1948 when a group of British World War II veterans with spinal chord injuries gathered together for the first ‘International Wheelchair Games’.
The event was the brainchild of Dr Ludwig Guttman, who had fled from Nazi Germany in 1939 and subsequently worked with war veterans at Stoke Mandeville hospital. Dr Guttman came up with the idea for the Games as a way for athletes with disabilities to compete at their own version of the Olympic Games.
The first official Paralympic Games was held in Rome in 1960. Back then, there were just 400 athletes from 23 countries. At the London Games in 2012 there will be 4,200 athletes representing 165 countries. The term ‘para’ comes from the Greek for ‘alongside’, as the Paralympics have been run in parallel to the Olympic Games since 1960.
There are 21 Paralympic sports at the 2012 Games, and athletics will feature some of Britain’s best hopes for a gold medal. We caught up with two Team GB athletes determined to deliver the win in front of the home crowd this summer.
Sprinter Sally Brown is preparing to make her Paralympic debut at the age of 16. The runner from Belfast discovered her athletic ability at primary school and now competes over 100m and 200m in the T46 category. Find out here how Sally’s preparing to make her mark on the London Paralympics.
Richard Whitehead is another great British hope for a sprint medal at the London Games. Earlier this year he also set a new world record over 200m in the T42 category, after switching to sprinting when he was told he would not be able to compete in the marathon in the T42 category at the Games.
The British runner holds the half-marathon and marathon world records for leg amputees and is the only double amputee ever to run a sub-three hour marathon.
We caught up with Richard to find out how he’s made the switch from marathon to sprint, and what it means to him to be competing in front of a home crowd in London.