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Making it happen: Lessons from the 2014 Winter Paralympic Games

Summer is the perfect time to get outdoors and enjoy a variety of sports and recreational activities; breathe in the fresh air, and feel the hot sun beating down on you. However, summer may not be for everyone; if you are anything like me, and burn to a crisp at the thought of a day over 28 degrees (yes, 28 degrees is pushing the limits!) you may like to seek the refuge of the great indoors for your sporting and recreational pursuits with the comfort of the air conditioner on full blast and the Sochi Winter Olympics on TV, perhaps living vicariously through the athletes.

As our summer, and the Winter Olympics draw to a close, we now turn our attention to the Sochi Winter Paralympic Games, and once again, watch in awe at the amazing feats of these athletes. Almost 590 athletes, representing 44 countries, showcase their skills in a variety of winter sports, including alpine skiing, cross-country skiing, para-snowboarding, ice sledge hockey, wheelchair curling and the biathlon. You will be amazed as athletes with a vision impairment rocket down the ski slopes at speeds of up to 100km per hour with the assistance of a guide, while leg amputees showcase their skills in para-snowboarding. Perhaps even the most humbling events to watch are the team relays, where a team of athletes, with varying disabilities, work together to achieve greatness; it truly outlines the vision of the International Paralympic Committee: ‘to enable Paralympic athletes to achieve sporting excellence and inspire and excite the world’ and is a mark of true human greatness, despite all odds.

The Winter Paralympic Games provide us with more than just entertainment and an excuse to hide from the sweltering heat outside; from them, we learn human strength and virtue. Individuals face their challenges and show the world that they can achieve their dreams regardless of their level of ability. They create a sense of camaraderie, in which we see people with such different life experiences uniting as one, focusing only on what can be achieved, and not what cannot. I feel a great sense of pride as I watch, not only the Australian Paralympic athletes, but all Paralympic athletes, achieve what seems like the impossible, as they honour their countries and themselves.    

We all face challenges in life; it is up to every one of us to decide whether we let these challenges bring us down, or whether we do something about them. Speak up! If you are facing disadvantage, or know someone who is, you don’t need to be alone. Voice the challenges you are facing with others, and together we can act to make a difference. In the wise words of Elvira Stinissen (Dutch Paralympian Sitting Volleyball player, London 2012 Paralympics), ‘if we remain silent about these challenges, then nothing will ever change’. Reclink Australia strives to make a difference in the lives of people facing disadvantage, and this can be done through sport and recreation; you just need to take that first step to make it happen.

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