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Omar Hassan – the importance of finishing the race

Paralympics 2012 has been a very special occasion, with many outstanding performances. From the British Team we remember those who won several medals, such as swimmer Ellie Simpson, wheel chair athlete David Weir and cyclist Sarah Storey. London 2012 was a landmark for Paralympic sport which is still developing. Many new world records were set and major television channels will show more interest in covering the Rio games in 2016!

Whilst the focus was, understandably, on winners, the performance of amputee Omar Hassan, who came last in a heat of the 1500 metres T46 category, exemplifies the spirit of the all Paralympics’ athletes. Omar was the first, and only, athlete from the tiny country of Djibouti on the Red Sea to compete in the Paralympics. Omar had trained hard for the greatest race of his life. From the moment the starter’s gun fired he strained his Achilles tendon. Many athletes with such an injury would have stopped running immediately, but Omar continued to run. Despite the great pain he was in he finished the race, finishing nearly 7 minutes behind the other athletes. The crowd gave him a continuous standing ovation and, when he finished, one of the greatest cheers of the whole Paralympics. After the race Omar pointed to his right foot and said it was “very sore.” He went on to say, “I thought of stopping, but I kept going because I wanted to finish.”

Many commentators have said that this Paralympic Games has changed the way we view disabled people. This indicates that the biggest problem is with us, not with them. It is our values that need to change. We make a fuss of the rich and famous and see them as the role models whom we should all seek to follow. Sadly, however, they are sometimes deeply flawed people. The disabled people who have competed at London 2012 have shown us that through the experience of disability they have become more complete people.

The apostle Paul suffered greatly as he faithfully served his Lord, Jesus Christ; he was beaten, imprisoned and shipwrecked. Near the end of his life he wrote, “I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. Now there is in store for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will award to me on that day – and not only to me, but also to all who have longed for his appearing.”

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Thought

Inspiration from the Paralympic Games

The Paralympic Games is an inspiring event. It has been a privilege to see the skills and dedication of the athletes, cyclists, swimmers and other competitors. Watching a young Chinese girl, who has no arms, winning the 100 metres race in a new world record time was amazing. The joy of those who have won medals, and of those who have not, has been great to see. Their sheer thrill at just taking part in the Paralympics has been evident for all to see.

The Paralympians are an example to us all as they have overcome serious physical disabilities and injuries. They have faced very big issues in their lives and have shown great courage to come through them as better people. This is an encouragement to us, as we face other kinds of challenges, to believe that we, too, can win through to find meaning and fulfilment.

Many years ago I read the amazing story of Joni Eareckson. On 30 July 1967 Joni, who was then 17, dived into Chesapeake Bay not realising that the water was shallow. She suffered a fracture of her spine and became a quadriplegic, paralysed from the shoulders down. In her autobiography, entitled “Joni, the unforgettable story of a young woman’s struggles against quadriplegia and depression,” she describes her struggle to come to terms with her injuries and the total change in her life and hopes. She was totally dependent on others and confined to a wheelchair. During two years of rehabilitation she experienced anger, depression, suicidal thoughts and struggles with her faith in Jesus.

With God’s help she came through all this. She learned to paint with a brush between her teeth and was able to sell her pictures. She has written more than 40 books, recorded music albums and starred in a film about her life. She has become a great advocate for disabled people. In 1982 she married Ken Tada and has recently come through surgery for breast cancer.

What shines through her life is that following her accident Joni has become a wonderful person. Instead of destroying her, she has grown through it. We wish that the accident had never happened but, in her severely disabled body, a beautiful person has blossomed. She has brought hope to many others facing big problems. Her life has not been easy, but she knows that one day all her struggles will be over and she will be with her Saviour in heaven for ever.