London 2012

A different view

Jo Healy blogs from day three at the Paralympics, as the action and the atmosphere reaches new heights

By Jo Healy.   Last Updated: 02/09/12 12:08am

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Jo Healy interviews the USA men's wheelchair rugby team

Jo Healy interviews the USA men's wheelchair rugby team

I wasn't sure anything could top a game of sitting volleyball with Boris Johnson and Barbara Windsor, but today I found myself presenting from the shoulders of one of the USA wheelchair rugby players.

I actually thought he was going to drop me, but fortunately we both survived and had a bit of a laugh. The USA men were at the ExCel to cheer on the USA women's sitting volleyball team, who overcame Slovenia in three sets.

I also had a chance to wonder around the ExCel today and get a peek at some of the other sports that were in action. My first stop was table tennis, where the men's and women's singles qualifications were underway. The standard was unbelievable.

Obviously it should be given that this is the pinnacle of disability sport, but even compared to the Olympic table tennis, I couldn't tell the difference in the level of play.

The only problem with the layout of the table tennis is that there are so many games being played at the one time. This means the crowds are smaller and more segregated than the likes of wheelchair basketball or sitting volleyball, where everyone is watching the same game and can really get behind the teams competing.

In between the table tennis and sitting volleyball, I also managed to get over to the Judo quarter finals. It was a really strange atmosphere if I'm honest. The stands were full and you could feel the anticipation in the arena, but the energy was never allowed out of the box. There was no direction from a commentator. So unless you were clued up on judo, which I wasn't at the time (I have since googled the rules) you had no idea what was going on.

Despite being slightly disappointed by the layout of the judo and table tennis, the ExCel concourse was as bustling as I've seen it so far during the Paralympics. The array of costumes was fantastic and people were proudly donning their countries colours.

Despite not being a particular country, I enjoyed seeing some well-known characters too, as I brushed shoulders with Superwoman and SpongeBob SquarePants.

Following the GB women's sitting volleyball I bumped into the President of the British Volleyball Federation, Richard Callicott. He had been supporting the GB women's sitting volleyball team with London 2012 Chairman, Seb Coe.

National debate

Callicott called on Lord Coe to support a national debate on the future of team sports, and I personally think it is a great idea. Sports like basketball, volleyball and handball can be played just about anywhere and by anyone. There is no need for top class facilities like a velodrome or rowing boat.

These are the sports that have inspired the British public throughout the Olympic and Paralympic Games, and something needs to be done to boost their financial futures.

As a GB volleyball player, my team had to deal with our funding being cut in the lead up to the Olympics. It was hard. Sleeping on a couch, beans on toast for meals, and being unable to enter international tournaments is not how a national program is going to develop.

But the team showed resilience to get to London to inspire the next generation of athletes. What's next is the question on everyone's minds.

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