Wednesday, September 10, 2008

All I Can Say Is "Wow!"

I knew we'd all be inspired by attending Paralympic events this week. How can you not be when you witness first-hand what these individuals have achieved despite their disabilities. What I wasn't expecting, though, was how exciting these games would really be and how innovative these individuals are in their approach to competitive athletics.

When we arrived at the Peking University Gymnasium, the first first ping pong stadium in the world (so we've heard), we were greeted by throngs of Chinese high school students waiting to get into the games. The stadium is beautifully constructed. It is bright, open, and airy, and the views are great from everywhere. There's even a huge ping pong ball that emerges from the top of the building and it lit at night.

The first rounds we viewed were interesting to watch. Eight games at a time. It was difficult to concentrate on one when there was so much going on. Later, though, was the real excitement. Two separate matches that rivaled any competition I've ever seen...

(1) Italy v. Brazil. Two men in wheelchairs who needed to band the paddles to their hand, hitting hard and strategically lobbing the ball in ways unimaginable. Even though we were cheering as loud as we could, it was difficult to choose who we wanted to win. Both fought so hard that it went to five sets, with Brazil as the victor.

(2) Germany v. Brazil. Probably one of the most amazing displays I've ever seen. The German man has no arms and only one leg. The other leg, from what we could see, was prosthetic. His paddle was strapped (by him) to the shorter than elbow length stump on his left side. He bounced the ball on his paddle to ready himself for serving. He was fast and furious. His serve was hard and he moved from side to side of the table effortlessly. I get chills and choked up just thinking about this. This man won in straight sets. We couldn't stop watching him despite our plan to leave so the kids could finish their homework.

I offer no further commentary, except to say that there are people doing BIG things out there with a lot more obstacles than I have. No doubt that leaves me with a lot to think about.

~Desi

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