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I won’t lie, when I first woke up this morning, the inventor of the alarm clock was my worst enemy.
This is my first experience with jet lag but now I know that it feels slightly like the worst stage of a hangover before you get those all-important foods and fluids into you.
As brilliant as last night’s Opening Ceremony was, getting home from it was an ordeal. Because of COVID-19 protocols, travelling to and from venues is not a quick experience. Media firstly get a shuttle bus from the media press centre (MPC) to the media transport mall (MTM) and from there buses run to every stadium in the Games and back again. A system I wasn’t aware of given our ‘unorthodox’ travel route to the ceremony. Needless to say, I’ll know the system for next time given how long it took me to figure out last night, adding an hour onto my travel time.
Anyway, a late night turned into a near-sleepless night in which my brain wouldn’t switch off. Then it was an early morning as before I knew it, my alarm was ringing so that I could be up and out in time to get to the Tokyo Metropolitan Gymnasium to see Colin Judge in action in the Table Tennis qualifications.
It’s funny, I went there as a journalist but I ended up just being an Ireland supporter. There’s something about the lack of a crowd that makes you want to just put the laptop away and cheer even louder for your team as if it matters now more than ever.
I’ve never seen a Table Tennis match live before but I am forevermore a fan. The skill, the hand eye coordination, and the pace are just incredible. And Colin is not just a great ambassador for the sport, but for Paralympics and Ireland in general.
Following his match, we headed back to the venue’s media centre where word started to filter through from the Tokyo Aquatic Centre of three personal bests for Barry McClements, Nicole Turner and Róisín Ní Riain in the pool. A huge achievement and a fantastic start for the swimming team. Immediately I went to share the news and excitement on social media before remembering it was 3am at home and deciding to hold off for a while.
But if you are new to Paralympic sport, I would highly recommend watching para-swimming. It’s how I became engrossed with the movement in Ireland three years ago when Dublin hosted the World Para Swimming European Championships. There is no better way to grasp how special Paralympic sport is than seeing a person with no limbs bombing it up and down a swimming pool, giving everything they have to win a medal.
That sense of awe hit me again this evening when we went to the Aquatic Centre to watch Róisín and Nicole in their finals. You can’t tear your eyes away from it. What these athletes can do and achieve is nothing short of incredible. And it was also a very emotional experience to watch the medal ceremonies with the winners welling up with pride as their national anthem played. It was a privilege to witness that in person and I sincerely hope that I get the pleasure of hearing the Irish anthem played in one of these stadiums during the Games.
Round-up of #TeamIreland in the morning's events:
Róisín Ní Riain qualified for the final of the 100m backstroke finishing 3rd in her heat with a new PB of 1.09.73
— Pundit Arena (@PunditArena) August 26, 2021
A blessed early night awaits me before preparations begin to return to the Aquatics Centre on Thursday to watch Ellen Keane in action. She has such a powerful voice when it comes to speaking up for equality for Paralympic sport that you could forget that she is not just a great ambassador, but an incredible athlete as well. Fingers crossed that more good news is on it’s way for Team Ireland.