Welcome! This week's write up is a follow up on Australia's National Gold Medalist and Paralympic star, Brydee Moore, after competing in the 2012 London Paralympic Games.
Well, the 2012 Paralympic Games are done. Everyone has packed up and gone home to resume life as it was - to either work or play or to continue to train - but in all cases, bask in the glory of knowing oneself earned the honor of representing their country as the best of the best. So, as readers may recall, I wrote about two particular athletes for the paralympics that were 'ones to watch' - and my prediction did not disappoint. Naturally, in watching the games I also learned about a whole lot of others too that dropped my jaw, like USA's Matt Stutzman and his incredible talent with Archery; just unbelievable. However, regardless of it all, and to be perfectly honest, as much as I like athletics and sportsmanship and competition, in the end, I'm not one to get all hepped up on medals; but lets face it, what athlete DOESN'T strive to earn one/two. I think it's great when someone earns them of course, but - well, not everyone is ever going to get one - and to me, and I mean this with all my heart - just being ASKED to represent one's country in the olympics is worth GOLD. Whether your event ended falling flat on your face with a mouthful of track or caught the flu mid week of the games....you - are - an - olympian. That is gold - and I really mean that. There are approximately 4,200 athletes selected for the paralympic games. And since the Paralympics is naturally international in scope, that of the roughly 7 Billion people on earth, the chances of being selected for the Paralympic games are about equal of being able to walk on the moon or become President of your country - at 0.000059999999999999995 %.
Australia's Brydee Moore
So - since I've become rather vocal about the Paralympics, I'm not one to give lip service - dropping a name here for posterity - when I say something, I mean it. So having said that, one of the athletes I wrote about prior to the games was Ms. Brydee Moore of Australia, who competed as a F33 Classification in Athletics, performing her sport with the Javelin (F33/34/52/53) and the Shot Put (F32/33/34). By all accounts, it's nearly a miracle she was able to attend, having suffered a serious leg infection earlier in the year that required both hospitalization and lots of bed rest at home. Given her prognosis and Doctors orders, this made training difficult - having to rely on her own set of values/determination - and a system of family support and training from home. However, as the old saying goes - there is no rest for the weary, and for Brydee, she continued her training no worse for wear and in spite of the challenges she was forced to overcome; an apparent character attribute that serves her well. Here in the U.S., Paralympic coverage was an embarrassment, but my son and I were able to livestream Brydee's javelin competition on September 3, 2012, from one of the few websites that offered it. For those who do not know, Paralympians are categorized within a classification, much of it based on a particular disability and the degree to which such disability effects their range of motion. Brydee is a F33, which means that as a person with Cerebral Palsy, she generally performs her athletics starting from a seated position. So, for Brydee, Bib # 1029, to perform her javelin throw, she is seated in a device she (as I have learned) calls a basket, which is a seat securely quadpodded to the ground. In the middle of this device, is a gripped pole for her left hand to hold onto for counter torque of her body when it comes time to whip that javelin like a tennis ball wails when it hits the blades of a lawnmower. My son and I watched Brydee take the seat and grasp the javelin - concentrating her energy on where she wanted the javelin to land. And like any great athlete with honed muscle memory, she whipped that javelin into the air slicing it - making it part ways like an airfoil over a jet's wing. The camera followed it's trajectory until it pierced the stadium's grass. A couple of throws were jetted about - her final mark landing 10.55 metres away! If you're an uncivilized metrically illiterate American like me - I'll give the answer to what you're wondering: that is nearly 35 feet! Remember, this is starting from the seated position. Sit down in a chair and grab ANYTHING. Now spring yourself out of that chair and try to whiz your projectile of choice 35 feet. You probably won't be able to do it - trust me. And while a Javelin is aerodynamically efficent, it is also long, clumsy - and, if released at just the wrong time, won't go very far. It takes lots of practice, muscle memory and skill to develop any sort of prowess at throwing Javelin - at least to the extent of having any hope of success.
Above Photo: It takes courage to stand before a crowd of 80,000 people - let alone PERFORM before a crowd of 80,000 people.
Okay - On to the women's Shot Put in her class, which was held on September 6, 2012. The sport of Shot Put has been around for thousands of years, believed to have hailed from an old Celtic tradition. The original tradition of throwing a stone evolved into throwing a cannon ball from the 1700's and from which the term 'shot' derives from. The shot used in the first modern Olympics was apparently made of lead, while the modern day shot is made of smooth iron or brass. Shot Put has been an Olympic event since 1896 and a women's Olympic event since 1948. A shot put ball can weigh anywhere between 8.8 to 16 pounds. I don't care what any armchair athlete says, either of the two is heavy, cramped in your neck and then forced to throw, which is exactly why it is a sport. After a number of attempts, Brydee zung that shot put like a grenade out the window of a preschool with it's pin pulled - with a best mark of 6.05 meters; nearly 20 feet, slightly farther than she threw at the 2010 Commonwealth Games of 5.85 meters. Now.....20 feet. Think about that. Pick up a 10 pound dumbbell in your house. Crank it into your neck. Then, without the benefit of an overthrow, toss that dumbell the distance of my taxi. You likely won't do it. You won't even do it standing up and spinning. But also, try doing it in the middle of an olympic stadium with thousands of people staring at you, with judges close by, in addition to snapping/whirling camera's and enormous pressure. In any event, Brydee did as she does in most anything she sets her mind to - and killed the Shot Put.
Now, its worth mentioning here that scoring the 2012 Paralympics is a bit complicated. I watched and looked at resulting ranks for a lot of different events with absolute confusion. I also watched competitions that were completely full of wonderment, like swimmers with the use of only one arm competing against others with the use of both arms - etc. etc.. Final scoring results of competitions were really perplexing. Brydee is ranked Number 1 in the world for her classification. Since the games have ended, I have learned a few things. For instance, when you compare Brydee's 2012 results with some others, you will see that she has less points than those who threw at a lesser distance. Are you confused? Well, let me explain why this is the case in MUCH easier detail in how scores are figured and finalized:
Got it? Yeah I didn't think so...just what *IS* this? Well, this is the RAZA system, so named in recognition by some pot bellied math whiz named Maz Raza. Since 2010, athletes in the Paralympics compete in a limited number of events by combining classes, and adjust their scores based on the extent of their disability. In short, what this means is the competitor who throws a shot put or what not the farthest may not win a medal, if another thrower with a more severe disability exceeds expectations for their class, which results in skewed results. In fact, the maker of James Bond's watch, Omega, erred in tallying the scores for the F35/36 women's discus by using an outdated formula, which meant the gold medal was awarded to the wrong athlete.
The International Paralympic Committee (IPC) abandoned it's traditional form of scoring in 2010 in favor of the RAZA System. The Raza System uses a Gompertz curve, or Gompertz function, named after Benjamin Gompertz. It is a sigmoid function; a type of mathematical model for a time series, where growth is slowest at the start and end of a time period blabbity blah blah blah blah. Bueller? Bueller? *Raises Hand* "MAY I GO TO THE BATHROOM?"
In any event, this is a topic for a whole other write up. All I will say right now, is that at the heart of any large machine, always lies an unattended and forgotten about monkey wrench. In the case of the Paralympic Scoring System, it is a distinct possibility that the monkey wrench are good intentioned people reaching out to and relying on others who over complicate things. RAZA is easy, simple, and fair! Said no one ever. (Except Mr. Raza, $$$$$$$$), Perhaps there are many variables I have not examined; however, I think it's likely a fair and normal criticism. It's easy for guys like Raza, sitting with his graphs eating potato chips trying to figure out new and inventive ways to keep his formula useful and relevant with the IPC - he already won his POT OF GOLD.
In closing, I certainly had fun watching this year's Paralympic Games. These athletes work harder than anyone - without the benefit of salary, a gaggle of resources, and in many cases - sponsors. Paralympians rely on what Olympians had to rely on since 1896 in Rome, which is sheer determination, desire, personal achievements and hard work - and for that, they have my deepest admiration. There were a lot of advertisements in the U.S. during the Olympics in how they inspire people. Well, for me - I am more inclined to be inspired to do better athletically when I watch guys like Matt Stutzman shoot a bow and arrow with his feet, or Brydee Moore whiz a javelin 35 feet starting from a seated position. I bust on Michael Phelps a lot, but do you *really* think he practiced his laps at the town pool? Or had his dad massage his shoulders at the end of an afternoon training session? Or actually PAY for those goofy earphones he wore before every event? No to all of the above. To me and so many others, a Paralympic athlete is to be revered - to be admired, for all their lives even when no longer competing. Look at my long dead relative Albert Gutterson - it's been 100 years and the University of Vermont's gymnasium still bears his name. For a Paralympian like Brydee Moore, not only is she first in her class, she IS first class. She is mindful of the responsibility that comes with Olympic stardom - and continues to give much of her time to assisting, training and motivating others in becoming the best they can be, whether it be for personal goals or to be one of the .0.000059999999999999995 % to represent their country as a Paralympian - and I just love her for that - there is nothing more noble on this earth then to give of oneself in so many thoughtful and selfless ways. For all the struggles she has overcome and for all her hard earned accomplishments - either in the past, present or future - I say, WELL DONE MATE. Admiration Earned.
Next week: A follow up on my next over town hero, Alicia Brelsford Dana of the U.S. Paralympic Cycling Team. Until then, here are some photos of Paralympian Brydee Moore taken while at the London games:
This section of the site is not specific to my taxi travels. They are not really rants either. It is more of a space for me to simply raise awareness to topics that either inspire or frustrate me as an individual.