OPINION: What can we learn from GB's tremendous Paralympic success?

The Rio Paralympics were a terrific spectacle full of tremendous stories of courage, triumph over adversity and sporting excellence. But among all the heartwarming stories, let's make sure we remember that last point '” sporting excellence.

By The Newsroom
Thursday, 22nd September 2016, 11:41 am
Updated Tuesday, 4th October 2016, 1:51 pm
Gold medal winning cyclist Dame Sarah Storey. Photo: onEdition
Gold medal winning cyclist Dame Sarah Storey. Photo: onEdition

All too often people patronise the wonderful sporting achievements of some of those athletes — many of whom have gone on to become household names because of their athletic ability.

Yes the competitors have often proved that the impossible is possible, to coin a well-used phrase, but let’s not overlook the sporting prowess of these athletes, who are getting better and better as the Paralympic Games continues to grow.

Ollie Hynd, the star swimmer from Mansfield and Ashfield, is now known throughout the country — and world — for his swimming exploits, gold medals and world records.

Ollie Hynd. Photo: onEdition

And quite rightly so. His hours of dedication and training again paid off at the Games in Brazil — and showed that he remains the best in the world over his favoured disciplines.

He is a great sportsman, regardless of disability.

Heanor’s Phil Hogg, previously a keen Great Britain wheelchair racer, swapped one discipline for three to make his Paralympics bow in the triathlon at the sport’s debut at the Paralympic Games.

Mansfield swimmer Charlotte Henshaw was delighted with her second Paralympic Games medal, a breastroke bronze, saying it was a great achievement to get on the podium at the age of 29.

Ollie Hynd. Photo: onEdition

They are all improving in their chosen sport, just like Dame Sarah Storey, of Displey, who again showed that age and disability is no barrier. Storey, 38, now has 13 career Paralympic gold medals after winning two cycling events at the Games in Brazil.

She is Britain’s most successful female Paralympian and a great example to every sportsman and woman — able-bodied or disabled..

They all contributed to a fine effort by Great Britain, which surpassed their record medals haul from the London Games four years earlier.

So what have we learnt from the last few days of Paralympic action, which was so well covered by television compared to just a few Games ago?

Hopefully, as I said, it will have taught us to recognise those athletes for their sporting endeavour — but there are, of course, many challenges that they have had to conquer along the way.

Paralympic ahletes in Rio faced not only physical tests but also mental ones — and flourished.

Now the challenge for us all is to see if we can learn from that and improve ourselves in whatever we do.

Also, can the success and skills of our Paralympians be passed on to youngsters in our schools?

It is reported that sports psychologists have identified five skills that help Paralympic champions to flourish — self-regulation, mental toughness, vigour, optimism and control.

The athletes are thought to be less anxious than most of us, and better at controlling their nerves and delivering their best performances to order when it really matters — on the highest sporting stages,.

Over the past couple of weeks they appeared to be so composed thanks, according to the experts, because they have learned how to manage their emotions.

Talking to themselves — known as self-regulation — and making that inner-chat a positive one is seen as a skill that we could all learn.

That skill could, for example, transfer to youngsters struggling at school.

Mental toughness — grit, determination and the motivation to cope with setbacks — is vital to achieve long-term goals and something that could be used as an education target.

Vigour, which can perhaps also be described as motivation, is something that is hard to instill into young people today.

But teachers can create the situations for youngsters to be inspired by our athletes from Brazil — both the Paralympians and the Olympians.

Making someone have the commitment towards a certain goal is not easy, but young people can be motivated given the right help.

Equally that can then lead to a more optimistic outlook. Again, just look at Ollie Hynd, his cheerful personna and how far that has taken him along with his skills.

The final positive attribute that it is thought we could transfer from Brazil into our own lives is control.

The unknown and uncertainty often means we are nervous and stressed.

However, sportsmen and women concentrate on what they do known and what they know is certain — their pre-match or pre-race routines.

That calms their nerves and makes sure they are in a position to do their best.

So it seems that we can all learn a lot of lessons from our Paralympic stars.