Round up of my time at the London 2012 Paralympics

I’m going to try and remember as much as possible…and for it to be in some kind of order!  There will be some pictures as well to keep you interested, it may be long, but bear with it!

I’ll start with the morning of the 24th August, one I will never forget.  Me, Jude, Helen Turner & Louise played basketball in St Paul’s Cathedral. The first time that I had ever been in there, and what an occasion to be there for!  SO many reporters and just a beautiful setting.  I hope to try and get some of the professional pictures as they will be incredible.  There are some my hubby took at the end of this post!

We scored front page of the Independent the next day – something I would never have expected to say, that I am on the front cover of a national newspaper!

25th August

We headed to University of East London in the afternoon after spending the evening before and the morning packing everything up…

My bags all ready for London

We played the USA girls that evening in front of around 600 people at UEL, which was good preparation for those girls who had never been to a Paralympics before, it gave them a taste of what to expect, although it would be close to 30 times that amount at the North Greenwich Arena, it was an idea!!  We lost to them by only a few points, it was annoying we lost, but good prep. We were all like kids at Christmas that night as after we trained the next morning we were going to be on our way to the Paralympic Village…!

26th August

After training we packed all our chairs and loaded it onto vans. Our bags had gone the day before, so all we had was our overnight bags to worry about…that and finding the car park where our cars were to be left for two weeks.  Maddie came with me, we put the postcode into our sat nav, and decided to follow some of the men’s team, we made it to the road we should have been at, but then disaster struck; we couldn’t find the car park and the guys we were following had driven off somewhere else (I didn’t want to follow, didn’t trust them THAT much!) and to top it off about 4 car fulls of the rest of the men’s team were now following me…bugger!  So we drove around a bit to see if the car park was anywhere, nope, couldn’t find it, so we stopped and asked a policeman – he directed us, we followed the directions and sure enough, he was wrong! Then thankfully Matt Byrne (I think!) came to our rescue, he led the way and we made it with plenty of time, phew!  After we all loaded onto the buses, we did a relay text roll call for the women’s team, only to discover that number 7, aka Hooch, aka Helen Freeman, was not on a bus…and the fact her phone is never charged, we all started to panic!  Once we got to the Village, we managed to get hold of someone who had found her and let us know that she was on her way, phew again…honestly wasn’t sure how I was going to make it through the rest of the day with all this excitement!

27th August

We had some downtime to get used to Village life and work out where we had to go for stuff…then we had a training session at the Basketball Arena!  It was great, it didn’t impress me that much (I know, I know…) but I guess having been to two previous Paralympics and the Stadiums being bigger it didn’t seem that big of a deal! I knew though that the next day, training at the North Greenwich Arena (aka the O2) was going to be more impressive.  Maybe that’s why I was nonplussed about the BBA?!

28th August

Training at the O2…OMG it was just amazing being in that stadium for the first time, I just sat and stared for a minute before being brought round by Garry telling us we only had an hour, so get on court….!  Hit my first shot, which boosted my confidence – I had always had a good feeling about these games, something inside me just fizzled and the butterflies I got every time I thought about being here and how excited I was about it all came back and hit me hard during that training session…

29th August – Opening Ceremony

We weren’t going…and I was gutted about it.  We all got dressed up and went to the BBQ that was behind our apartments and ate a lot of food (hey, it was good!), then sat in the coaches living room to watch the ceremony on TV, you could also hear the noise from the stadium, that could be seen from the balcony.  Once the teams started to come in we did some prep for our game against the Netherlands the next day some people went to bed.  Louise and I went to sort a few things out, then went back into their room as the British team was just about to walk into the stadium.  We were sat on the balcony and the roar was incredibly loud – we heard it clear as day from the balcony and the emotion of it all brought tears to my eyes.  In fact I was crying quite a lot!  I was really happy to be able to share that moment with Lou, of 3 different games we had been to, it was the first one we had been to together, it was a poignant moment for me.  We went to bed once I had dried my eyes and fell asleep…only to be woken by what sounded like the stadium being bombed, it was of course just fireworks, but still, scared the life out of me!

30th August – Game Day – The Netherlands

I was so excited when I woke up!  It was time to show the World who we were.  I went through all my pre-game prep as I always do at major tournaments and for once I didn’t psych myself out of it all!  We got ready, warmed up and then it was game time. We started strong, drawing the first quarter 8-8, but after this things seemed to fall apart.  With such a young squad, it was inevitable that nerves were going to play a major factor, and I feel that I have let some of the younger girls down by not helping them overcome them.  I only played a few minutes, but scored 100% from the field (1/1). But with the Dutch team putting on an extremely strong performance we were just no match for them on the day. They won it comfortably 62-35.

31st August – Game Day – Australia

After having such a poor performance the day before I was ready to come out fighting against Australia and for the few minutes I was on, fight I did – notching up 2 fouls quite quickly, oops…I started the game so I had obviously done something right the day before and not coming back on the court for the rest of the game was frustrating to say the least – especially as getting 2 fouls isn’t exactly the worst crime ever!  It was the worst game we have played in a long while and whether it was still nerves or what, I don’t know and even though we had a good shooting spate in the 4th quarter, it wasn’t enough to bring it back.  The Oz girls won 51-24.

1st September – Game Day – Brazil

Brazil was a team we knew we could beat, we knew it was going to be tough, especially as they had narrowly lost to Australia a couple days earlier (52-50) and considering our performance against Australia wasn’t great a slight bit of nerves creeped into my system.  But I pushed them away as quickly as they came – I had to get my positive mental state back!  I had bought some posters to put up in the apartments and one of them had this quote on it by Larry Bird: ‘Push yourself again and again.  Don’t give an inch until the final buzzer sounds.’ I read that on my way out of the apartment the day we played Brazil and decided that I was going to live by it for the rest of the games (I have since decided to live by it every time I play basketball!).  I started again for this game and again, I was on the court for just a few minutes (was getting more than just a bit frustrating by now!!) – I was pleading in my head for Garry to put me back on the court when Brazil started to put a lead on us, but he’s not a mind reader, so didn’t get the message! The girls who were on court in that 4th quarter showed a lot of heart and professionalism and went on to finish a game that the day before we could have lost.  We won 42-37!

3rd September – Game Day – Canada

We had a day off on the 2nd, I went to see my family at PGB house, which was really nice, got a lot of cuddles from Josh & Mikey, just what I needed!  Then it was time to get focused for Canada.  We started off really strongly, but then our 2nd and 3rd quarters killed it for us.  In the 2nd, we were just one point down with 4 minutes to go, but in the last 3 minutes, they held us scoreless and scored 6 points themselves.  This put them in a strong position going into the half.  We fought back in the 4th, but it was too little too late by that point. They won 67-50.  A much better scoring performance for us, but just not quite enough.

4th September – Quarter Final Day – Germany

If ever there was a time to have a fantastic performance at this Paralympic Games, today was it.  And boy did we.  We led the first quarter 12-8.  They drew back in the 2nd to be leading by 1 point going into the half.  This was still a fantastic position to be in for us.  We were playing some awesome basketball, and it just felt right.  We were all literally putting all we had onto that floor, and it was exciting to watch and when on court to be part of.  We stayed level in the 3rd quarter, so they were still just one point ahead.  I was having an amazing game (hey, it’s my blog, I’m allowed to big myself up!!) and played 16 minutes or so.  We were with them the whole way in the 4th quarter and with 3 minutes to go, we had to start fouling them so they weren’t just able to run the clock down.  But the con of doing this is that if they make all their free throws it makes it more important to score, and I guess it just wasn’t meant to be.  I should say that Annika Zeyen for Germany had a massive impact on the result, she shot extremely well and I think if we recognised sooner and shut her down as well as we were shutting down the German forwards the result would have been very different. We put everything into that game, our hearts and souls and it was ripped away from us.  It hurt very much and then being pulled to one side by Jordan who wanted an interview after it was difficult.  Thankfully Helen Freeman said to me that if I cried she would punch me – or I would have done!  I managed to wait till I was past all the interviewers and cameras in the mixed zone, but then the emotion just took over and realising my dream of winning a medal at London 2012 was gone, I couldn’t hold it back anymore.  The tears and everything just poured out and as I got into the changing room and someone came to hug me, it just made it all worse.  We were all emotionally and physically gone by that point.  Going and seeing family after the game was more important than ever, to have them supporting you is one of the most important things at elite level sport.  Without my family I wouldn’t have made it to where I am and I have to give thanks to them.  Luckily we had a day off on the 5th, if we had to play a game the next day I think it would have been even worse than the Australia game.

6th September – Classification Crossover – China

So we played China in the crossovers for classification, if we won we played in the 5/6 game, if we lost we played for 7/8.  I started again in this game, and I played about 10 minutes and scored 7 points, one was a 3 pointer right at the end of the game.  To be honest we didn’t play well the entire game, only winning the last quarter.  We missed a lot of shots and they shot very well.  We tried but it just didn’t feel like we had enough fight left in us.  We drew it back to 13 points, but with only a minute and a half to go, at that point it just was too far.  They beat us 72-55.

7th September – 7/8 Place Game – Mexico

We all had a strong talking to each other and basically said we are not leaving this tournament in 8th place…again. Since 1996 we had finished in 8th at every Paralympics, and none of us wanted that.  We had the 8.30am game and getting up at 5.30am was not fun, but after some food and a mini training session on the warm up court, we were all a bit more awake.  Clearly not awake as we thought we were as we went down in the first quarter 11-6…realising that we were going to have to pull our fingers out to win this game, we came out fighting in the 2nd to win the quarter 12-8 and going into the half down by only 1 point.  A change in tactics for the 3rd saw us dominate it and won it 22-7 and going into the 4th quarter with a healthy lead of 14 points.  Mexico battled on in the 4th, but we played with more heart and wanted it more, closing out the quarter 19-11 and winning the game convincingly 59-37…but more importantly, breaking the 8th place curse!

We also went to watch the women’s final in the evening, and saw Germany beat Australia to win the Gold medal – it made the loss in the quarters a bit easier to bear knowing they were eventual champions, but the fact we took them to a better game than the silver medalists did still hurt.  Managed to sneak Josh courtside with me during that game, which was fun!

8th September – Men’s medal matches

Yes it was final day for the men, but more importantly it was also the day most of the team were in the salon having their hair done!  I have also now found a new hairdresser, so a good day all round!  I also got loads of freebies as well, and not just tester freebies, full sizes freebies from the salon!  We headed off to watch our men play for Bronze.  Unfortunately the USA were just too strong for our guys and they won 61-46.  We also stayed to watch the final as well – it was a great game – it saw Canada come out eventual champions winning the game 64-58 against Australia.

9th September – Packing Day & Closing Ceremony

So all our bags had to be out of our rooms at 10.30 – thankfully I had done a lot of packing the day before so all I had to do was last minute bits.  Got it all done and packed into the van on time…we then had to push 1 mile to our cars to put our bags into them, we then said goodbye to our bags as we didn’t expect them to be there when we returned after the parade the next day!! I just bummed around the village, went and saw Mikey and Josh and chilled until about 5/6.00pm when I decided to get ready for the closing ceremony.  We had to be outside by 7pm…and we would have made it, had we not had to wait for the lift for so long! It took forEVER to get downstairs! So we were a few minutes late and were being chastised by some people, but we wanted to wait for the whole team…it took a little while longer, but in the grand scheme of things it didn’t matter!

The closing ceremony was amazing!  Coldplay, Rihanna and Jay-Z were fantastic and we all had a blast, singing and dancing the whole night!  We then went back to the BBQ area by our apartment for some drinks – I may have had a little too much too quickly and ended up in bed by about 2.30am, but it was a good night!

10th September – Last day in Village and Our Greatest Team Parade

Waking up was awful, granted I had more sleep than some (i.e. those that had got in at 5.30am) but I felt rough…I packed the last minute bits to go in my over night bag, including my duvet, then proceeded to have a shower and get ready.  I left my hair down, thinking it looked all right (it was still wet…!) went and tried to eat some breakfast, came back to the room to finish getting ready, looked in the mirror and cried out “My hair is massive” – cue laughter from the rest of the girls!  So I put it half up…couldn’t go on a parade with massive hair!  We got on the buses to go to the other side of London, police escort and everything, so cool! Got there and had some speeches from the Chef de Mission’s of TeamGB & ParalympicsGB, smiled and said hey to Tom Daley, had a lot of people come up to me and say that I was hilarious last night, used a gross port-a-loo, then pushed up a very long steep ramp onto the float!  We then had to wait about an hour for all the floats to be loaded before we headed off on our final lap of honour!  IT WAS AMAZING…completely completely amazing.  I never ever imagined how awesome it would be.  The amount of people there was incredible.  Thank you to everyone who came to support both TeamGB & ParalympicsGB, it is something I will never forget.

Once the parade had concluded and we were sitting in the wrong place during the fly overs, we then had a reception where there was some food, more speeches and famous people to spot.  Amy Conroy and I decided to get as many photos with famous people as we could find, we did quite well…not finding Jess Ennis or Tom Daley though, which was disappointing!

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London was amazing from start to finish.  Yes we had blips in the middle with a couple of our games, but it just goes to show just what we are capable of, and come Rio we should be hitting our peak at just the right time.  I will never forget our performance against the now Paralympic Champions, Germany; nor the parade, where people were just everywhere, hanging out of windows, tops of buildings – including St Paul’s Cathedral; nor will I forget how close the team became during our time in London.  We fought hard together and when things didn’t go our way we didn’t fall apart like we could have done, we stuck together and came back stronger.

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Now that my Journey to London has been completed I will be rebranding my blog…I hope you will still check in when I make a new post to see what I’m up to as I will still be playing basketball, but I will also be showing off my personality a bit more too…I’m still undecided what to call my blog – I was going to go back to ‘Up in Clouds of Pink’, but I think I want something completely fresh – so if you have any ideas and I haven’t changed it by the time you come back, please drop me a line!

Love & Hugs
S x

p.s. Bravo if you read all of that, it was quite a lot!!! Cookies the next time I see you x

Now for some pictures…which appear to not be in the order I wanted them to be…………………………

About Sarah

I am mummy to a gorgeous little boy - who is now going to school! I am the best wife in the world (even though I do say so myself) to my soul mate, I play Wheelchair Basketball for Great Britain and am hoping to be able to compete in Rio in 2016 (I have been to the Sydney 2000, Athens 2004 & London 2012 Paralympics), I have a psychotic husky and two adorable cats, who wind said husky up, I help my sister with her photography business when I can (www.lisaburrett.co.uk & www.fineboudoir.com), I have also been helping my sister in law Sammy out with editing her books - she will be a star one day (www.samanthagrady.com), I like baking cakes when I get the chance, I love diamonds, I love all things pink and fluffy, I hardly ever have any spare time, and I smile a lot :-) View all posts by Sarah

One response to “Round up of my time at the London 2012 Paralympics

  • Jane Walker-Smith

    What an amazing time you’ve had sounds like such fun. You did so well. It was lovely spotting you on the float and getting that wave and thumbs up. You’re a star and we’re very proud of you. xxx

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