A Coming of Age Games
On this day, in 1988 I was racing at the Paralympic Games in Seoul. A good Games made great by being held in the same city as the Olympic Games for the first time in 24 years. Although big respect, to Tokyo, in 1964 for being the first city ever to host a Games called Paralympic.
The swimming pool in Seoul was stunning, fast, slick, set up for racing. Some weeks before it had been packed out, seating 10,000 spectators. We could hardly have hoped for the same at the Paralympics. But, we got it, they did it, inviting local schools, churches and community groups to pack out the pool and support each and every nation that was competing.
My main events were spring freestyle and I felt high in the water, recovering from that 20 hour plane flight from London. The team raced well, golds across the piece. Inspiring for me at my first Games. Too many to mention but Robin Surgeoner really smashed it, winning three freestyle golds along with one in the 100 m Breaststroke. In many ways. Robin was the GB swim star of the Games.
The 1988 Paralympic Games were certainly a Games of firsts, a coming of age not just for the Games’ themselves but in a micro way for me. I went to Seoul, to my first Paralympic Games as a 16 year old, I returned having had my 17th birthday on the same day as the opening ceremony. I came back with a silver medal, but with so much more. Not least, that feeling of connection, to have met, spoken, eaten and raced with the world: great memories, very fortunate to have.