The Top 10 Moments From the 2012 Paralympics

Sep 10, 2012
Outside Magazine

A rundown of the biggest moments of the 2012 Paralympics in London, from conflicts to triumphs.

10. Armless Archer Wins a Silver Medal
When Matthew Stutzman, 29, first became interested in archery, he Googled, "How to teach a guy without arms how to shoot a bow." Nothing came up. He improvised, using a method he shared with NPR. He uses his left foot to put the arrow in place, holds the bow with his right foot, and pulls the string and arrow back with a release aid strapped to his right shoulder. After he lines up the arrow using his mouth, he moves his jaw to trigger the release aid and let go of the string. In London, he won a silver medal in a field where no other competitor was missing both arms. H/T: Wired Playbook

9. Jody Cundy's Outburst
At the start of the 1km pursuit in the Velodrome, British cyclist Jody Cundy came out of the gate early. Cundy believed it was because of an equipment malfunction and wanted another chance. The judge ruled it was a false start caused by human error, and he was disqualified. Four years of training for his Paralympic moment ended in frustration, and Cundy went into an explicit-laden tirade that included the phrase, "They are ruining my life." He was led out of the stadium by a coach. Cundy, who is missing his left leg, is a swimmer turned cyclist who has won seven Paralympic gold medals. He's using the disqualification as fuel for Rio 2016. "I guess I'll have to do another four years now because there's a kilo title with my name on it," he told The Guardian. "I want it back."

8. David Wetherill's Amazing Shot
Table Tennis Daily called 22-year-old David Wetherill's diving volley "Simply one of the best Table Tennis shots ever!!" A YouTube clip of the crosscourt forehand has been viewed more than five million times. At the time he made the shot, Wetherill wasn't sure how it would be received. "My biggest concern was that I looked like some silly little disabled boy rolling across the floor," he said this past week. "But that doesn't seem to have been the case."

7. A Roller Coaster
Brazilian Yohansson Nascimento racked up a series of emotional moments in London. He won silver in the 400m. He fell during the 100m finals in the T46 division, which is for athletes who have conditions affecting at least one arm, but walked across the finish line anyway to cheers. He won gold in the 200m and after the race held up a sign proposing to his girlfriend.

6. The Streak
Esther Vergeer has won four straight Paralympic gold medals on the way to winning 470 straight singles matches in women's wheelchair tennis. The 31 year old from the Netherlands has not lost a match since 2003. She needs 86 more victories in order to eclipse the longest consecutive winning streak in sport—455 victories by Pakistani squash player Jahangir Khan—according to the Associated Press.

5. Back-to-Back Golds in the 100m and 200m
Irish sprinter Jason Smyth, who has only 10 percent of his normal vision, has a goal of making the Olympics and the Paralympics in the same year. He missed the "A" qualifying standard time needed to get into the London Olympics, so he'll have to wait to try for Rio 2016. At the 2012 Paralympics, he won gold in 100m and 200m, repeating the same feat he achieved at Beijing in 2008.

4. Crying Unfair Advantage
Just minutes after Brazilian Alan Oliveira defeated Oscar Pistorius in the 200m final, the South African sprinter complained, "We are not running a fair race here." Pistorius thought Oliveira's prosthetics were too long and that the Brazilian won as a result of a greater stride length. As Ross Tucker of Science of Sport pointed out, it was Oliveira's stride rate—how fast he moved his legs back and forth—that brought victory. Oliveria played it cool. "For me, he is a really great idol and to hear that from a great idol is difficult," he said. Pistorius soon apologized. "Race day tomorrow, can’t wait to get back on the track! Still very much regretting my reaction on Monday in heat of the moment .. sorry," he said on Twitter.

3. Same Track, a New Race
In 2001, former Formula One racer Alex Zanardi lost both his legs in a violent car accident. During the 2012 Paralympics, the 45-year-old returned to one of the same tracks where he raced cars to compete in handcycling. He took home two gold medals, but said that it wasn't the victories he would miss. "So you realize what really (matters) was the effort that you put in daily in order to build something special," he told the Associated Press. "Because when the championship arrives, you cannot expect to meet happiness that day, otherwise you don't get there. It's the process."

2. An Epic Haul at Home
After being dropped from Britain's Olympic pursuit team at the end of 2011, cyclist Sarah Storey decided to focus on the Paralympics. The 34 year old, who was born without a left hand, won four gold medals in cycling to increase her career medal total to 22. On the way to helping her country to a record total of 120 medals in 2012, the swimmer turned cyclist tied the record for the number of gold medals held by a modern British Paralympian, with 11.

1. Double Duty
Though Oscar Pistorius lost in the 100m and 200m at the Paralympics, he blew away the competition to take gold in the 400m, his signature race. It followed an Olympics where he became the first amputee sprinter to compete. "I'm so proud," he said in an interview. "This summer has been a dream come true. I couldn't hope for anything better."

—Joe Spring

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