Ramblings about the London 2012 Paralympic Games…continued

By:  Nancy Megginson, Professor, Kinesiology

Midway through the Games (Sep. 2-4)

I wonder whether the United States has heard of the Oscar Pistorius Paralympic controversy/debate…since there is limited coverage of the Games, I imagine it is not widely known that Pistorius lost the 200m in the T43/44 to the 21 year-old Brazilian sprinter, Alan Oliveira, in the Sunday night competition. Not only was that a shocker but Pistorius immediately cried foul to the International Paralympic Committee (IPC), saying the race was not fair and that Oliveira used longer ‘J’ blades (running prosthetics) than should be allowed which gave him a longer stride length. This controversy started a huge media dialogue here relative to how an athlete with bilateral amputation is measured for these running blades and if Pistorius’s claim was warranted. In an IPC media conference on Monday morning at Olympic Park, it was announced that there were rules that clearly defined a ‘formula’ to be used to estimate full body height of a T43 athlete so running prosthetics would not be developed/used to exceed this estimated height. The IPC turned down Pistorius’s appeal yesterday stating that Oliveira’s blades where within the expectable range for his estimated height. Pistorius issued an apology to Oliveira for the timing of the appeal and indicated he (Alan) was a great athlete but was frustrated with the IPC for not dealing with this issue earlier. Apparently, Pistorius had contacted the IPC weeks ago about his concerns with the blade length of another competitor (believed to be the US T43 sprinter, Blake Leeper) and felt it was ignored. The final results for the 200m medal event was Oliveira (Gold), Pistorius (Silver), and Leeper (Bronze).

I had mentioned in the previous ‘blog’ that it was questionable whether it was fair that T43 and T44 athletes compete against each other. T44 sprinters are those with unilateral (one) amputation below the knee whereas T43 are athletes with bilateral (two) amputations below the knee.  Conventional wisdom would indicate that T43 sprinters sprinters would be at a disadvantage to an athlete missing one limb. But it would appear that a symmetrical vs asymmetrical gait might just have a slight advantage—All three of the medal winners are T43 athletes. In the Monday news conference, the IPC announced that it would be looking into whether the T43/44 class would be split into separate competition in the very near future…The 100m heats start on Wednesday with the finals on Thursday night…should be interesting.

I went to the equestrian individual freestyle competition on Tuesday…didn’t quite understand it but with some explanation from the venue staff, I sort of followed it. The oneness of rider and horse was clearly impressive.

The US women wheelchair basketball won a strongly contested quarterfinal match against Canada tonight (Tuesday). The US men play tomorrow against Germany…it should be a tough match-up. Wheelchair rugby starts on Wednesday with US playing Great Britain in the opening game.

China is leading the medal count with 131, followed by Great Britain (79), Russia (62), Ukraine (50), Australia (52), and then the US (47). Don’t be confused by the numbers…the medal ranking is based on the number of gold, silver, and bronze for each country…




Ramblings about the first 76 hours of the London 2012 Paralympic Games

By:  Nancy Megginson, Professor, Kinesiology

August 29th

Due to a four-plus hour delay in my flight from SFO, I arrived at London Heathrow on August with just enough time to hit my hotel and take the train out to the Olympic Park before the start of the Open Ceremonies. I have accreditation as a member of the press covering the Games for the adapted physical activity, recreation, and sport professional magazine, Palaestra, but needed to pick up my photographer bid/materials at the Main Press Center before the OC started. Once in the Olympic Stadium, I (along with over 62,000+ spectators) was exposed to an extremely original and moving OC like no other…With Professor Steven Hawking, astrophysicist, narrating the ceremonies and Sir Ian McKellan playing Prospero from Shakespeare’s The Tempest, the evening’s festivities provided moving journey on the struggle of disability/human rights and the achievement of empowerment. Over 141 performers with disability participated in the ceremonies, many of those attached to zip lines in various scenes flying high over the crowd. To usher in the official start of the Games, the Queen of England announced its opening, the Paralympic flag was raised, and the cauldron was once again lite to tell the world the 2012 Paralympics were to begin. The end of the OC was accented with fireworks over the stadium and a very moving finale song, I am what I am, performed by Beverly Knight (and others). I was moved to tears but had great excitement to what was to come in the next 12 days of competition. Got home about 1 AM still wired from the OC…

August 30

Couldn’t sleep….After a horrid few hours of sleep (time zone zombie), I got up just in time to have breakfast and head back down to the Olympic Park in the east side of greater London. What an incredible site as the train pulls into the Stratford Station! The competition buildings are very creative in their design but mold to the land like they have always been there. I love that a good chunk of the venues are located at this one site so it makes it easier to get to a variety of competition throughout the day. Athletics (track and field), wheelchair basketball (actually at two sites in the qualification matches), wheelchair rugby, goal ball, cycling in the Velodrome, aquatics, wheelchair tennis, and football-5-a-side/7-a-side (soccer) are all located here. ExCel is another main site for venue competition as is located about 25-30 minutes away by bus. Boccia, powerlifting, table tennis, sitting volleyball, judo, and wheelchair fencing competition are to be held in this large exhibition center.

Archery, shooting, wheelchair marathon, road cycling, equestrian, rowing, and sailing contests are held at other sites throughout the London area. As a member of the press, I have access to easier entrance into the park and transportation between its various venues as well as down at the other sites I mentioned.

I am blown away by the support and knowledge base of the British fans for the Paralympic Games. The competition is sold out; persons I talk with on the train to/from my hotel to the park are consistently saving they wished they had tickets. And (I know I am generalizing but it is what I see) they know about the various disability sports. You cannot believe the roar of the crowd when a British competitor is announced or medals…it is deafening! And there is constant coverage on television (one broadcasting station reported a peak audience of 11.2 million viewers), radio, and in the newspaper about the competition at these games. Compare that to no-live US NBC coverage at all only occasional highlights on its cable station and filmed Youtube broadcasts by the US Paralympics. It is shameful.

Saw my first US gold medal of the games…Jessica Long won the 100m butterfly in her class. Long was adopted from a Russian orphanage when she was 13 months old…because of a congential anomaly where her fibulas were missing in her lower legs, Jessica was unable to walk… at 18 months, her legs were amputated below the knee so she could be fitted with prosthetics. US won a total of 6 medals for today…Pretty exciting…Enough…I need to sleep; it is 4AM and I am beat.

August 31

Little sleep again…grrrrrrrr. Breakfast and back to the park. I wanted to check out the Excel venues today and was able to cover/photo the US vs. China women’s sitting volleyball team, poked my head in at powerlifting, and watched judo. I headed back to Aquatics to watch a wounded Afghanistan veteran, Brad Snyder, compete in the men’s 100m freestyle finals in his division. He was blinded less than a year ago in an IED explosion. He won the gold metal and had a number of fans in the stands who were there to support him. I was so proud/happy for him that I was cheering in the photo area (sorta a no-no). The playing of the US anthem for his gold medal ceremony had an additional connotation that was not lost on any American in the venue at that moment. Jessica Long also got her second gold in the 400m freestyle finals…US earned a total of five medals for today’s competition. Got home early at 1030 and went to bed at midnight…maybe tonight I will get some ZZZZZs.

Sep. 1

Yea!!!!!! Got some sleep. Headed out to the park to check out what I wanted to cover today. I decided to focus on athletics later in the day and took a few hours to go by the underground (Tube) to one of the largest outdoor food stalls/antique faire/flea markets in London called the Portobella Market. What fun but hard to walk around! There were people and tour buses everywhere! Needed a bit of retail therapy before heading back to the competition☺ Found a nice leather jacket for 7 pounds (about $11 dollars)!

Back at the park, I hustled out to the Olympic Stadium to get a good photo position because of the upcoming qualification heats in the 200m T44 class in which Oscar Pistorius would be competing. Oscar (aka Blade Runner because of his ‘J’ blade prosthetics) will have participated in both 2012 Olympics and Paralympics track competition this summer. He has long been an avid proponent to allowing athletes with disabilities to compete along side athletes without disabilities. Because of this media fame and visibility, everyone here knows who Oscar is and that was witnessed tonight when a huge deafening fan roar occurred as he entered the track. There were three heats tonight with Pistorius in the last one. The first heat competition established a new world record in the 200m…Oscar answer that in the third heat with breaking (shattering) that newly established WR by over 40 seconds. The crowd went wild…more to come on this in the finals. There is a US athlete, Blake Leeper, who may be the one to give Oscar a run for his money (sorry, I just had to say that☺). Interesting note…he has the same level of disability as Oscar (bilateral below knee amputation); note to self—is if fair to have T44s compete with T43s (unilateral below the knee amputation)? Are T44s’ sprinting gait more similar, biomechanically, to sprinters without disabilities as opposed to those with asymmetrical gaits due to a unilateral amputation? I imagine this has been researched but I need to look into it.





Physical Activity: At the heart of your education?

Shirley Reekie, Ph.D.
Chair, Department of Kinesiology

If you knew you could be prescribed something that could prevent and treat dozens of diseases, such as diabetes, hypertension and obesity, with no bad side effects and many good ones, wouldn’t you want to get your hands on this miracle drug? This is the message of http://exerciseismedicine.org/ a physician-run campaign to urge people to take regular exercise.  Yes, exercise is that “medicine.”

But perhaps you think that finding a time and place to exercise is difficult. Did you know you could achieve all of these benefits right here, on the San José State campus, by taking a range of high quality physical activity classes, arranged around your schedule?

Having access to these classes sure matters to most SJSU students who take a physical activity class in the Department of Kinesiology each semester.  Nearly 2000 have already signed a petition to keep these classes available to all students.  Yes!  There is a possibility that all of these classes may be cut in a perhaps not very well thought through cost-cutting proposal.  If you think this is important, join the thousands who have already signed the petition at: https://www.change.org/petitions/save-the-sjsu-physical-activity-program

These days, almost all other universities (including all CSUs) offer physical activity classes to their students and many others require it, as do we.  For example, see this from Harvard University: http://www.hsph.harvard.edu/nutritionsource/staying-active/staying-active-full-story/ You might also be interested to know that MIT and many other schools (including our own sister CSU school, Cal Maritime) require all students to be swimmers before they graduate: http://www.boston.com/news/local/massachusetts/articles/2006/05/08/time_to_sink_or_graduate/?page=full And at CalTech, there’s a range of activity courses and three activity classes are required: http://catalog.caltech.edu/courses/listing/pe.html

And yet we have these rumors on campus that cutting out all physical activity classes is being considered as a way to save money! With all that we know about the scientific evidence on the health benefits of regular physical activity (see the US Surgeon General’s Report at http://www.surgeongeneral.gov/initiatives/healthy-fit-nation/index.html) this seems to be short sighted and likely to cost the university even more in the long term, with increased visits to the Student Health Center and to Counseling Services.  By the way, staff in both these centers are actively supporting the campaign to keep physical activity classes available for our students. They get it! So do many international students who tell me that it was in these classes that they made their first American friends and began to feel “at home.”

In addition to the health benefits of physical activity classes, we know from student comments that these classes are: “where I met my girlfriend,” “where I meet students from other majors,” “why I get up in the morning,” “what keeps my stress under control,” “the best classes I ever took,” or simply “the place on campus where I have fun.”

If this sounds like something you’ve said, please add your voice to the many who have already spoken, at: https://www.change.org/petitions/save-the-sjsu-physical-activity-program

After all, isn’t physical activity really at the heart of your education, in so many ways?