I’m an Australian Paralympic Wheelchair...
Connectivity / Great facilities beget great performances
As a Paralympian, having the best possible facilities in the Paralympic Village is critical for my preparation and competition performance. I fully expect London will deliver the facilities I need.
During the crucial times leading up to a competition, I want to have as few worries as possible, so I can focus on my sport. I need an environment that creates a positive atmosphere.
I think accommodation can affect results at the Games almost as much as the four years of training. Personally, I think a few basic comforts can make the world of difference.
To a disabled athlete, it is often the trivial things that have the biggest impact on comfort. For instance, being able to see the mirror in the bathroom or to reach food in the dining hall is important.
Digital connectivity is also vital since it allows athletes to escape from the pressures of the competition by watching TV shows and movies, catching up on the news or listening to music. Plus, we can keep the media and sponsors up to date with how things are going.
Athletes also need a connection with their normal life. The internet provides a link with friends and family back home through video calls and social media. I believe this will play a crucial role in how well I perform in London as I will have been away from home for 13 weeks by the time my first race begins.
With so many athletes preparing, relaxing and socialising, it can get quite noisy in the village at times. So it’s crucial that the rooms are quiet and the beds are comfortable so athletes get enough rest before competing, particularly since athletes often have very different schedules.
The rooms must be large enough to fit your own and all your roommate’s gear with space to move the wheelchairs around the room. The accommodation also needs a good-sized communal area, where athletes can socialise with team mates.
However, it’s the outdoor spaces that are often the talking point for athletes. Large open spaces help us relax before we compete. They’re places to gather and make new friends, to play ball games and to talk about anything but our sport – taking our minds off the pressures at hand.
Open spaces also make for easy, direct access between buildings. Wheelchair athletes want things to be simple; they don’t want to go the long way round just because there isn’t a simple ramp.
Indeed, step-free access throughout the Paralympic venues is hugely important to disabled athletes. Great access makes the whole experience enjoyable and creates a positive feel to the event, which athletes will carry home with them.
Easy access to the facilities reduces stress before the competition. Athletes don’t want to have to climb down steps, enter through a back kitchen door or crawl into the bathrooms because their chair doesn’t fit through the main entrance.
We all know what to expect in terms of the layout and appearance of the village from the media coverage and images released in the lead up to the competition, but this does nothing to dampen the excitement and exhilaration that each athlete experiences when they first enter the village.
As more and more athletes arrive, the atmosphere builds and the village is abuzz with activity. Exploring the village during this time brings a sense of achievement for our four years of hard work, and is always a memorable experience.