Recent news stories about the forthcoming 2012 London Olympics have reminded me about a couple of events I covered at which medal winning Paralympians spoke about their struggles, training, hard work and motivation.
Here’s a link to a Gender Blog story about the incredible wheelchair athlete Baroness Tanni Grey-Thompson – and an extract from a corporate blog entry on swimmer Giles Long, who I met almost two years ago at the launch of PwC’s Disability Network.
New UK Chairman and Senior Partner Ian Powell formally opened the event and welcomed everyone to PwC, referencing this launch as just one example of all the great stuff that we do in the firm to support people, both internally and also externally in the wider social community. His comment that, for PwC, supporting those with disabilities is “not about disability, it’s about talent” – really resonated with me, given the gender agenda and the importance of supporting our women.
Ian then introduced a really excellent external speaker: Giles Long MBE, a three times Paralympic gold medal winner and world-record breaker. Giles is a swimmer, specialising in the butterfly stroke, and he started off by telling us that, aged 7, he decided that he wanted to win an Olympic gold medal. He was a very talented junior level swimmer until, aged 13, he was diagnosed as having a rare bone cancer which led to the removal of part of the bone and of the muscles in his right shoulder and arm: the very muscles needed to give the range of movement needed to power your way through the water.
Try raising your arms above your head as you read this … and then imagine not being able to do that with your right arm, because the muscles that you need to do so just aren’t there any more.
And then imagine having the grit and strength of personality to get back in the pool anyway, several years after you’ve gone through gruelling chemotherapy and hours of agonising physiotherapy, and re-learning to swim all over again by changing your breathing patterns and using your left arm and shoulder muscles.