The most inclusive sporting event ever held to date was the 2018 Commonwealth Games, with 38 para medal events woven into the schedule alongside able-bodied events.
Full with feats of athleticism, skill and determination, the most remarkable achievement of the games was the way para and able-bodied events were seamlessly integrated to form a rich and highly watchable schedule. At the Commonwealth Games, even the medals table was a combination of able and para results.
Humble, gregarious, apprehensive, confident, proud – whatever their disposition and whatever their chances of victory, the para athletes all shared a sense of positivity about the value of para sport. “Don’t look at disability, look at your ability,” Friana Kwevira told the media after winning bronze in the women’s F46 javelin, making her Vanuatu’s first ever Commonwealth Games medalist. “If I can make it, you can make it.”
“Here [at the Commonwealth Games] I feel I can contribute to the medal tally and make a difference,” said Bonnie Bunyau Gustin, a para weightlifter from Malaysia, who eventually missed out on a medal by a whisker, coming fourth in the men’s lightweight final.
There was even a visually impaired photographer, Andrew Follows, and his guide dog, Leo, on the sidelines at the swimming and gymnastics to capture the action. He too shared their delight, saying his Games experience had been “absolutely epic”.
In the lawn bowls, Ken Hanson made history as he became Australia’s oldest Commonwealth Games gold medal winner, aged 68. To do it he had to produce the shot of his life in the men’s B6/B7/B8 match, blasting away two Kiwi bowls from the jack, giving the Australians a last-gasp win.
But it was not so much the stories of success that stood out as the spirit of togetherness that propelled the competitors. A fine example of this was in events that paired para and able-bodied entrants, such as Ann Muir, who operated as a “director” for her visually impaired team-mate Sue Curran, guiding her shots in. How fitting it was, then, that “Share the dream” was the motto of the Games.