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5 March 2014

Chuck Aoki: Phrases you only hear at the Paralympics

Hello everyone! With the Sochi 2014 Paralympic Winter Games starting this week, I thought as a Paralympian myself I might try and give you all a little preview of what it's like at a Paralympics and things you hear about while there there.


These quotes were all said at one point or another during the London 2012 Games, by myself, or usually one of my teammates. While those were a Summer Games, you can definitely expect to hear similar phrases at the Winter Games.


Sochi 2014 begins on Friday (7 March) – which just happens to be my birthday – so I hope you’ve all made plans to tune in and hear these wonderful phrases.


“Why are all of those Chinese guys holding onto each other?”

I was mystified when I first arrived in the London Paralympic Village by large groups of Chinese athletes all walking around, with one arm draped across each other's shoulder, in single file lines. Was it a training regimen? Or were they all so close as teammates they felt the need to hold onto each other constantly? I got the answer from one of my more experienced teammates. They were a phenomenon known as “blind trains.” Since visually impaired athletes are unfamiliar with the new surroundings of the village, they would link together, and have a sighted leader to guide. Brilliant. Our goal became to find the longest train possible. Ten was the longest I saw, but rumors abounded about a mythic 16- man train. Be sure to keep an eye out for the best train of visually impaired skiers in Sochi.


“He doesn't have any arms! How is he going to get out of the pool?!”

This one was said and tweeted by yours truly. China has a swimmer who has literally no arms. We watched him dominate his race, but I was at a loss for how he would get out of the pool. This turned out to be a simple solution, he was able to put what existed of his upper arm on a bar, and use the leverage to get out. I was really hoping he'd launch himself out of the water like a dolphin. Oh well.



“We're going to need 12 McFlurries ... we'll take 12 fries, too. Thanks!”

I have a feeling this, or something similar, is said at the Olympics and Paralympics. You would be stunned at the amount of athletes who eat at McDonalds during the Paralympics. Ease of access, I suppose. Our team was guilty of contributing to this. Our post-game tradition was a McFlurry with french fries. Don't judge us. I have a feeling that plenty of Winter Paralympians will follow our lead.


“How is he going to jump over that? He only has one leg!”

Iliesa Delana. Just watch, he's at 3:29 of this video: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6Drmva50mpM. Incredible. I'm going to make a radical suggestion here. Single amputee skiers like Michael Bruegger should ski without their leg. I have no idea if this is at all feasible or even safe, but my entertainment is the priority here. So I say let's go for it.


“I wish I didn't have legs.”

This one I'm going to take credit for. An absence of legs allows you to turn incredibly quickly in a wheelchair. I do find myself slightly jealous of my fellow rugby players who don't have legs. I would wager that Florian Panker gets jealous of Josh Pauls occasionally in sledge hockey. We don't use our legs anyway in these sports. Might as well lose them. That makes sense, right?

“What's that? It's the cart of parts!”

I thought I'd seen just about everything the Paralympics had to offer before we went to a sitting volleyball match. How wrong I was. You see, many of the athletes in sitting volleyball are amputees, and they don't wear their prosthetics during games. So what do they do with them? Put them in a locked cart of course. Watching legs and arms sail through the air, back and forth, might be one of the most amusing things I have ever seen. I'm wondering if sledge hockey has a similar cart, and if so, if the sledge hockey players ever try playing hockey with their various appendages. Again, only at the Paralympics, folks.

“Is there anything even wrong with them?”

One of my personal favourites. Paralympic athletes are all fierce competitors, and ruthless, too. Only at the Paralympics will you hear someone question whether or not a person is actually disabled enough to compete. I bet every single Paralympic athlete has uttered this at some point. It's hard to tell sometimes.

“It's a Stephen Hawking dance party!”

How many astrophysicists do you know that can bring the house down and start a huge dance party? I didn't think there were any, until Stephen Hawking proved me dead wrong at the Opening Ceremony in London. When the voice of one of the world's smartest men tells you to dance, you do it. Sochi has a lot to live up to. Maybe IPC President Sir Phillip Craven can DJ the Closing Ceremony? Just an idea …


About the Author:
Chuck Aoki is a Paralympic athlete on USA Wheelchair Rugby and contributing writer of the IPC. Article and photo provided courtesy of the International Paralympic Committee.