London 2012

Raising the roof

Jo Healy gets the chance to experience the atmosphere at both the velodrome and the ExCel.

By Jo Healy.   Last Updated: 02/09/12 11:40pm

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Anthony Kappes and Craig MacLean celebrate striking gold in the velodrome

Anthony Kappes and Craig MacLean celebrate striking gold in the velodrome

Holding a Paralympic gold medal has got to be at the top of my highlights of 2012. I was at the velodrome on Sunday for the final session of the track cycling, and what a way for the cycling to end with 'God Save the Queen' being belted out by every Brit in the room (and probably everyone else too).

After getting lost on my way to the velodrome (turns out I can't use the bus system), I finally made it to the packed out and buzzing venue. It is the first velodrome I've been in before, so it took me a moment to get my bearings and comprehend the near horizontal bends in the track. The racing was extremely fast. The final race of the session was the mixed C1-5 final, and despite GB just missing out on the gold to China, both teams finished in under world record time.

The concluding medal ceremony was for the men's tandem sprint, Great Britain with two teams standing proudly next to each other on the podium. Anthony Kappes and Craig MacLean won the gold medal, edging out their compatriots Neil Fachie and Barney Storey.

Mixed zone

I took the opportunity to go down to the mixed zone to speak with Kappes (who was speechless and in shock at the 'very, very noisy' atmosphere) and MacLean following the ceremony. Both guys clearly delighted about the win. MacLean handed me his gold medal which was completely surreal. To be able to see it up close and feel its weight really brought the moment to life.

MacLean credited the GB Cycling set up to the team's success in the velodrome in 2012. Both Olympic and Paralympic squads train together and share the same facilities, which as MacLean explained encourages a level of professional behaviour and elite training. He told me that the Olympic athletes feed off of the Paralympic athletes and visa versa, so there is a great rapport between the two.

Today was the first time I really felt the significance of the Paralympics. The first few days were exciting and I was fuelled by the buzz of adrenalin, but today I stepped back and was able to appreciate the spirit behind it all.

I had the opportunity to be a spectator at the sitting volleyball, rather than rousing the crowds and clapping along to 'Everybody Dance' by Chic. The GB men's team were on court against Morocco, and it was a chance for me to soak up the atmosphere and experience what the crowds get to see every day. I also loved watching the inspirational videos that were played before the match. The sheer determination, heart, and passion of the athletes is truly remarkable.

The team made history as they became the first men's volleyball team of any discipline (beach, indoor, and sitting volleyball) to win an Olympic or Paralympic game. It was amazing to be there. The roof of the ExCel felt like it was going to cave it from the vibrations of noise. Not that the team minded at all, they love the home crowds.

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