Best and Worst of the Paralympic Opening Ceremony uniforms

The Mexican Paralympic Team have the honour of the worst uniforms at the Opening Ceremony.

 

Sport is as much about the uniform for me as it is the action. The opening of the Paralympics this morning saw a greater variety of uniforms than I expected and there were some memorable ones among them. Read on as I take a look at the best and worst of the crop.

 

Five best Paralympics Opening Ceremony uniforms:

  1. Great Britain  – Hands down the best uniform belonged to Great Britain, because it was one that we had already seen before. The fact that Team GB were decked out in the exact same kit as their able-bodied counterparts shows how serious the GBOC and GBPC are about having the movement succeed. If Great Britain’s Olympic team had worn something different there is no way that their Paralympic team would be at the top of the list in these outfits.
  2. Iraq – There wasn’t much that stood out in the Iraqi uniform, but what did is what sees them get the number two position. Hats made from Balloons that you would see a clown make animals with at a children’s birthday party was not only a unique touch, but shows the party atmosphere the athletes are looking to bring to the Games after going through many personal struggles in their homeland.
  3. The Netherlands – You can’t go wrong with fluorescent orange in my opinion. Not only did the Dutch wear fluro orange suits, but went one better by adding a white sweater vest underneath. They pulled the unusual look off with ease in a display of fashion that will long stick with orange enthusiasts such as myself.
  4. Austria- Looking striking in their national colours of Red and White were Team Austria, who pulled off one of the classiest looks of the ceremony with their red blazer and white slacks combination. When looking at countries such as Canada who also share the red and white colour scheme and what they did with their outfits (very little, in fact Team Canada were on my short-list of worst uniforms), you can’t help but be more impressed by the Austrian outfit.
  5. Czech Republic – The stand-out for the Czech Republic was the fact that they were wearing shorts. Sure it was raining (isn’t it always in London), but they did something that very few nations would think to, let-alone dare to do.

 Five worst Paralympics Opening Ceremony uniforms:

 

  1. Mexico – The only uniform about the Mexican outfit as they walked into the stadium was the lack of uniformity. I don’t think I saw two athletes that were dressed the same, which makes me wonder if they either A) were told to just bring clothes from home to wear, or B) have the largest uniform in the history of the Paralympics.
  2. United States of America – While Team GB wore the exact same uniforms as their Olympic counterparts, the only similarity for the United States of America was the fact their athletes wore a beret. I said it when their Olympic  team walked out, I said it again this morning and i’m more than happy to say it again here “The American team are playing up to the service stereotype too often” , after they were also seen rocking a military themed outfit at the opening of the 2008 Beijing Olympics.
  3. Burkina Faso – Burkina Faso came out wearing what looked like a mix between an inmate uniform and winter pyjamas with the sleeves cut off. Furthermore they were wearing maroon hats which resembled teepees. Nothing at all to like about them.
  4. Argentina –  The light and dark blue combination works a treat for Argentina, but this morning they found a way to mess it up. Spray jackets are fine if you are an athlete at any sporting event, but they are not apparel that should be worn at the opening ceremony, an occasion where you want to showcase the best of what you have to offer.
  5. Solomon Islands- The only thing worse than a spray jacket in an Opening Ceremony is a national flag t-shirt. This was the only mistake made by the Solomon Islanders’ , whose usual green, blue and yellow combination otherwise worked a treat and could have seen them rocking one of the best kits, had they be handled by a different design team.
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Fearless Five :: Five foreign athletes to keep watch for at the Paralympics

Jonas Jacobsson is certain to add to his record haul at the London Paralympics.

Following my post yesterday on Australian athletes to keep an eye on, it’s only fair that I provide a similar guide for international athletes. There are obviously going to be some exceptional athletes who don’t make the cut.

Pal Szekeres: The Hungarian fencer will be aiming for his Seventh Olympic /Paralympic medal in London, after winning Gold in Barcelona and Atlanta and bronze in  Sydney ,Athens and Beijing as well as a Bronze in the 1988 Olympics in Seoul.  Szekeres was severely injured in a bus accident in 1991 and took up Wheelchair Fencing the next year, making his medal achievement in Barcelona all the more special as he was still adopting to life in a chair. The 47 year-old has worked with the European Paralympic Committee and the Hungarian Sports Association for the Disabled as well as being the Hungarian Deputy State Secretary of the Ministry of Children, Youth and Sport from 1999-2005.

Oscar Pistorius: Many will know of Pistorius after his efforts at the London Olympics. Don’t expect him to  win with ease in London though as he competes in the T44 100m, 200m, 400m and 4 X 100 events. He has said that he has no expectations in the 100, an event which he has not run in 16 months, or run a personal best in in five years. Pistorius has also been honoured as the Laureus Disabled Sportsperson of the year for 2012.

Jonas Jacobsson:  Jacobsson will represent Sweden in shooting at his ninth Paralympics looking to add to his tally of 27 medals, 16 of which have been Gold. Those 16 Gold Medals make him the most successful Male Paralympian of all-time. He also became the first physically disabled athlete to win the Svenska Dagbladet Gold Medal, the most prestigious sporting award in Sweden, in 2008.

Jessica Long: Some would know of Jessica Long because of her recent commercial success, where she has become one of the faces in the latest Coke advertising campaign in the United States. This recognition is well deserved for the swimmer who has taken the world by storm over the last eight years. After making her Paralympic debut at the age of 12 in Athens where she won three Gold Medals, Long confirmed her spot on the world stage two years later, when at the World Championships in South Africa she won all nine of her events and broke five World Records. Long has also won multiple ESPY’s (ESPN’s variety of the Oscars).

Antonio Tenorio: Tenorio goes into his fifth Paralympics with his worst achievement to date being a Gold Medal. the Judo athlete lost sight in his left eye after a slingshot accident, before losing all sight after a right eye infection seven years later at the age of 13. It has already been confirmed that he will compete in a Sixth Paralympics in his home country of Brazil in 2016 after accepting an invitation from the Brazilian Paralympic Committee.

Fearless Five :: Five Australian athletes to watch at the London Paralympics

Melissa Tapper will be one Australian athlete to keep an eye on in London

The Australian Paralympic Committee have sent a strong contingent of athletes to the London Gam, and you may be wondering who to look out for.

Matthew Cowdrey: The Adelaide native has already broken 83 World Records in his career and needs just three medals to become the most decorated Australian Paralympian of all-time. Not only will he be unstoppable in the individual events in the S9 class, he will also be the mainstay in the relays, where Australia are expected to dominate.

Kurt Fearnley : Paralympic, World and Commonwealth champion who has crawled the Kokoda trail. Not only does his resume speak for itself, but he is probably Australia’s most well-known active Paralympian. Watch for Fearnley in the T54 Marathon on the last day of the games as he aims to defend the title that he won in China four years ago.

The Gliders: The Australian Women’s Wheelchair Basketball team come into London looking for their first Gold since the Barcelona Games in 1992. The Gliders will be led by Bridie Kean, who will be competing in her second games. Coach John Triscari believes that the staging camp in Cardiff helped bring the 12-strong team together, and that with the tightness of the world rankings over the last few years, his squad is capable of anything .

The Steelers : The Men’s Wheelchair Rugby team  finished second in Beijing behind the United States. The core of the side has stayed together and big man Ryley Batt will be one of the key players for the men in Green and Gold. Batt became the youngest Wheelchair Rugby player at the Athens Paralympics when he debuted at the age of 15. Another key member of the squad is the flag bearer for Opening Ceremony Greg Smith who has previously represented Australia at the 1992, 1996 and 2000 Paralympics in Track and Field.

Melissa Tapper: Tapper comes into the Games ranked fourth in the world and is aiming to break a medal drought in Table Tennis which stretches back to the 1984 Paralympics. Before heading to Cardiff she spent three weeks in Poland training with the national able-bodied squad in an attempt to get a deeper hit-out before the games. While Tapper admits she is nervous, she is adamant there is only one player who scares her – Polish player Natalia Partyka. The pair have never met and Australian Head Coach Alois Rosario believes Tapper’s recent stint  in Poland puts her in fantastic shape to beat Partyka, who competed at the London Olympics and was eliminated in the third round.

Exclusion levels the playing field.

Jessica Long (3rd from right) is one to watch in London.

On Thursday Morning (Australian time) the London Paralympics will kick off amid much excitement and expectation from around the world. Over the last few weeks I’ve fielded the question of if I believe the Paralympics should be a stand alone event or included with the Olympics, and for me it isn’t something that I need to give much thought.

Why should we be forced to share the spotlight with able-bodied athletes ? There is a lot of momentum behind the thought that “disabled people already go through so much, so they deserve to get proper recognition”.

That in itself is something that I couldn’t disagree more with.

My having Cerebral Palsy doesn’t mean I’ve been through a lot, it simply means that I have to deal with day-to-day activities in a modified fashion.

It doesn’t make me special, a role model, an inspiration or anything like that.

Every disabled person would tell you the same if you gave them the chance.

Back to the topic at hand.

We train just as hard, we give up just as much, we have the same dreams of hearing the national anthem with the flag being raised.

Just like our able-bodied counterparts we deserve our moment in the sun, and if the two Games were combined this will be lost.

I’m under no illusion  this directly contradicts what I mentioned above in suggesting that we shouldn’t be looked at any differently, yet it is a difference which is noticeable  when side by side with able-bodied athletes.

If you buy swimming tickets would you be paying to see Jessica Long or Michael Phelps ? Do you know who Jessica Long is ? If not google her and look at the success she’s had in and out of the pool.

The joint revenue would be great for the IPC and the crowds would be at capacity, which is something that we may see over the next two weeks, with Paralympics tickets continuing to sell fast.

There is the argument that a joint Games would lead to greater media exposure, wrong again.

Would that be the same exposure that sees networks take commercial breaks during the disabled events at the Australian Swimming Championships ?

However you want to sugar coat that you can’t deny that the majority of networks treat disabled athletes as second class.

Imagine the outrage if they chose to ignore the Olympics in favour of showing over 16 hours of Paralympic action a day.

In the end it doesn’t matter because we aren’t on the same level currently and the only way that will change is by continuing  showing why Paralympians are equal athletes, despite not being seen as equal humans.

Why Jason Varitek will manage the Red Sox in 2013.

Jason Varitek is the man to put the fight back in the Red Sox.

The disunity among the Boston Red Sox this season has been nothing short of disgusting. It isn’t entirely the fault of Bobby Valentine but he is the guy calling the plays, so that is where the buck stops. As the saying goes, it’s easier to sack one manager than nine players. For this reason Jason Varitek is the only reasonable replacement as the Sox look to return to the summit of the AL East in 2013.

When it was announced that Valentine had signed a contract with the Red Sox, I like many others thought that he was the man to lead us to a third World Series title in eight years.

When questioned about the rivalry with the Yankees in his introductory press conference he responded with something along the lines of “I don’t think about them, nor do I care about them, so I won’t waste time talking about them.”

For  proud Yankee haters like myself this was what we needed, someone who wouldn’t take any rubbish and would stick it to those who stuck it to us.

Then April rolled around and the reality of what we thought was going to a landmark season struck hard.

1-5 after the first six games felt slightly better than the fantastic 2-8 mark that was achieved in 2011, yet the season never really improved.

Depending on what you believe, senior players called a meeting management in Mid-June to discuss the problems they have with Valentine (The players have said management called the meeting).

This meeting was the nail in the coffin of the former ESPN Pundit, who is yet to be officially told his services won’t be required for next season.

Many Red Sox fans have Varitek pinned as the ideal replacement, and with two World Championships, a Little League World Series, College World Series, Olympic representation as well as being a member of Team USA at the World Baseball Classic (The only player ever to achieve all of those feats), what’s not to like?

Sure he doesn’t have any managerial experience, but former catchers have done well for themselves at the top level and there is no reason that he would bring those stats down.

22 of the 107 World Series that have been played have been won by a side who was managed by a former catcher. That is a little over one out of every five. Give any Red Sox fan another championship to celebrate by the end of 2017 and I’m certain they’d take it.

He knows Fenway. Having spent 15 Big League seasons playing in the park, Varitek’s intimate knowledge means that when it comes to vital in-game decisions, he’d make the right ones, something you could argue we haven’t seen too much of this season from our alleged fearless leader.

Remember when Varitek had a swipe at A-Rod ? Of course you do, that day will never be forgotten by any member of Red Sox Nation.

Even though some may have viewed it as an unprofessional act, it gives a great insight into the character of the manager-in-waiting.

He was our captain, and in many ways he still is.

A leader both on and off the field who the players committed to, and would have done anything for.

From 1918 to 2004 (Everything can come back to this if you need it to) the Sox lacked somebody who was able to grab the bull by the horns and make something happen and on July the 24th 2004 when he put A-Rod in his place that changed.

We not only saw a come from behind victory, but the side went on to post the best record in the Majors from that day until the end of the Regular Season.

Does it bother me that the guy we should hire has no experience ? Bobby Valentine led the Mets to a World Series (Which says something) and now looks like he wouldn’t know which end of a bat to hold.

For me the Red Sox have always been about doing what feels right, and Jason Varitek standing in the dugout for the home opener in 2013 would be the highlight of my life, outside of the 2004 and 2007 championships.

Does Red Sox ownership, who have made some poor decisions in the last few years *CARL CRAWFORD*, finally get one right and hire the one man who everybody knows will take us once more to the promised land ?

The show rolls on.

 

The London Paralympics are just 16 days away.

After two weeks of intense sporting action the circus wound up for another four years this morning, but don’t fret because the Paralympics are a short 16 days away.

While the media coverage in most countries isn’t the same and the athletes aren’t as well known, there are a million reasons to be excited for the Paralympics, yet as listing them all would result in a long post, I’ll just give you a few::

  • We’re going to have more success than we did at the Olympics. Expect a top 10 and more than likely a top five finish from the team who finished fifth in Beijing with a 23 Gold-29 Silver-27 Bronze -79 total medal breakdown.
  • The media coverage exists, but it won’t be the only thing we hear about for two weeks. With the Olympics on for 16 hours a day on Nine and Foxtel having eight exclusive channels, we didn’t see a lot else in the last two weeks. While that coverage would be great for the Paralympics, we aren’t in a position where that is going to happen for another few games, or realistically, ever. The ABC will cover both ceremonies live, while showing live events from 4am-8.30am and a one hour highlights package daily. I will write a post of the basics of the system in a few days time.
  • The classification system means you get more of every individual sport. Many who don’t know disabled sport find the classification system confusing, heck many who do are still confused by it.
  • Athletes who work equally as hard as their Olympic counterparts get the once in four year recognition they deserve. We saw it with the Olympics in the smaller sports. Who is going to follow sailing for the next four years just to track how our Olympic gold medallists are going ? It’s the same for any Paralympian, regardless of sport. This is the ten days they get treated like stars in what is otherwise a very low key life.
  • It’s sport. This one speaks for itself. If you’d watch the Olympics and lose sleep for two weeks over things you usually wouldn’t care about then you better replicate it for the Paralympics. I’d love to say the glamour is the same, but what is the same is that you get competition and the best athletes slogging it out for what they’ve chased for years.

Personally ? I can’t wait to see people I shared some of the best years of my life doing what they do best.

To sink or swim ?

We’re as confused as you Michael.

 

There has been a lot made of the use of post-race interviews at the London Olympics and how successful they’ve been. I’m happy to acknowledge how much insight they bring, I’m not sure if I like the way they are being done though.

I understand Giaan Rooney asking James Magnussen if he feels disappointed. What I don’t get is why she did it three times in three separate ways, yet seemed surprised when she ended up with the same answer on each occasion.

I love the style of Tony Jones. He looks like he fits, he knows how to get interesting information out of an athlete and leaves us with just enough information that we’re craving more at the end of the 45 second slot.

I’d love to say that there is a fine line between what the two are doing, but it’s a line thicker than the divide between Australia and New Zealand on the medal tally before we were able to add two Gold’s this morning to pull us level with our neighbours.

Jones is a near thirty year qualified veteran, while Rooney is the typical “athlete who has enough insight to land her a gig, even though there are others more deserving” journalist. As someone who has (and still is) working hard to become the sort of Journalist that Tony Jones is, I am ever frustrated by the likes of Rooney and Hackett, even though I know why the networks choose them, a decision which very rarely fails.

Before I go any further I’d like to clarify I have no problem with Giaan, she’s a great person who on every encounter I’ve had with her she has been up for a chat and offered great  insight into the Swimming . My frustration comes from knowing that she’s doing what she’s instructed to do by Nine, yet at the same time has the capabilities to do much better than she is.

One of the first things I learnt at University was to ask the obvious questions first. I’m not a huge fan of saying “A big loss out there, must not feel too good?” but you never know what you are going to get from an athlete and something they say can be used as a lead-in to a more in-depth question. For this reason and the fact that the majority of athletes have ZERO media qualifications, I respect the way that they are going about their business.

Sure, ex-athletes are given media training, but that’s a different beast to being qualified. With the  time that they have on their hands, perhaps the organisations employing them should mandate them becoming qualified as  it is only going to strengthen their overall product.

So how do we get rid of those predictable post-event interviews ? A network hires the ex-athlete because of the knowledge that they have, so why isn’t that knowledge being used in these interviews ?

If I’m poolside talking to James Magnussen here’s what I’m asking him:

  • You appear to be lacking the killer punch at the start of the back-end of the 100, is this something you’ve modified in the last few months ?
  • Has there been something other than nerves that has contributed to the lack of sleep over the last few nights ?
  • Can you feel your stroke shortening up towards the end of your race ?
  • Why when you have such a great height advantage to you wait till the last portion of your race to bring in the big kick ?
  • Even though only a small thing, is consideration to the beard going especially given you’ve fallen short of your target  by such a small margin ?

There is a lot more I’d want to ask him, but given the time constraints I wouldn’t have the chance. End result, an interview with insight into how he raced as opposed to how he is feeling after it, which is all that most people want.

And what’s to stop Rooney asking all of those questions ? Absolutely nothing. She just didn’t know what to look for and the public backlash may see her not have another chance, with the role potentially going to another in Rio should Nine have Free To Air rights.