Tonight is the beginning of the Paralympic Games. Tonight is the first time in 12 years that I will not be going to those ceremonies, all crammed into a bus, wearing my Canada gear, waiting to walk into a packed stadium. I'm not going to lie, it's a bit odd.
When I retired from swimming four years ago, I thought I was completely done. I had had enough and I wasn't going to look back. At least, that is what I thought. I have since learned that I was done with swimming, but not really with competitive sport. I always knew that I would never go back to swimming, even though in a sense it could be quite easy as it's something familiar, but that is certainly not an option for me. That is why I've embarked on this crazy journey to find triathlon guides and/or long distance running guides.
I am not done competing.
There is no way to describe the atmosphere of a Paralympic village. It is buzzing with anticipation, excitement, nervousness, joy, fear...a sense of community and all mixed in with an edge of competitiveness. When you walk by a fellow Canadian, or whatever country you are from, you wave or say hi; even if you have no idea who that person is. You are, for the time that you are in that village wearing that Maple Leaf, connected .
You don't walk around your home town waving to everyone you pass just because they are from your home town. But, in a Paralympic, or Olympic village I am sure, you make an effort to support complete strangers just because you have one common goal in mind; to represent your country the best you can.
You congratulate people when you see medals hanging from their necks. You even hug them; again, even if you don't know them. You lend a shoulder for someone to cry on when something just didn't work out. You cheer for your teammates even if you don't like them. You want them to be successful: you want them to win.
It's such an incredible experience and although I am certainly missing it, I am so very excited for those athletes that are there and wish them luck, but most of all, I hope that they enjoy the experience; take it all in because there really is nothing like it.