I do love a good moan. Those of you reading this that know me will most certainly agree. I may only be 21 years of age but, my word, do I sound like a miserable old grump most of the time. It’s not about one specific thing either; I find myself moaning about a whole variety of topics, from politicians to the price of pasta to nail varnish (yes, this has happened). Just the other day I caught myself banging on about the new dance craze that is ‘dabbing’ – apparently I’m the only person of my age who thinks it looks ridiculous. Anyway, I digress. If there is anything that the current Paralympic Games has taught me however, it’s that I really have no need to grumble as much as I do.
One of the things I moan about most is the state of my body, which some would argue is with fairly good reason. I have suffered at least 38 separate injuries already during my short life (I’m not exactly sure how many times I’ve damaged my fingers and hamstrings), with nearly half of those occurring in the last 18 months. In 2016 alone I have visited five separate hospitals, been carried off a cheerleading mat fearing I’d broken my neck and back and, most recently, left needing surgery to repair my knee.
Whilst many may believe that I do have a right to moan about this, I now disagree as most of these injuries were self-inflicted. Furthermore, there have been a number of times when I have risked making these injuries worse by continuing to participate in sport instead of resting, whilst it was also my idea to have a 6’5” male jump on my back at the end of a cheer routine. It’s not my own stupidity that has made me realise that I’ve got nothing to moan about though; it’s the fact that there are so many people out there who have suffered much, much worse problems than me and yet still manage to achieve remarkable things, all with a smile on their face.
The story of Britain’s most recent golden girl, Kadeena Cox, has really caught my attention. Like most people, I hadn’t really heard of her before the 10th September 2016. Everyone knows who she is now. Her performance in the C4-5 time trial in the Rio Olympic Velodrome last night was unbelievable. Last to go in the event, I just couldn’t see Cox being able to overcome the supreme Chinese athletes who had just decimated the great Dame Sarah Storey’s times. Shows how much I know. Cox didn’t just win gold, she annihilated her opposition, finishing over a second ahead of the silver medallist and setting a new world record in the process. Less than 24 hours after winning a bronze on the athletics track.
Cox’s performances are just the tip of how special she is though. A promising track and field athlete in her younger years, Cox suffered a stroke in 2014 at the age of just 23. Later that year, after returning to full fitness in less than two months, she was diagnosed with MS. Almost exactly two years later she is now a Paralympic champion and has a chance of three more medals before the meet is over.
The thought of being able to deal with not just one, but two, life-changing illnesses must have been incredibly daunting, yet Cox has just got on with it and not let it hold her back in any way at all. Not once during her post-race interview did she let that beaming smile drop from her face and it was clear to see just how delighted she was with her performance. She seems to be so humble and has not let her illness stop her from doing anything she wants to. I bet she hasn’t once moaned about her situation either.
Of course, Cox is not the only inspirational competitor at Rio 2016. In fact, each and every para-athlete, whether they have appeared on an international stage or just at amateur level, has had to overcome serious impairment just to be able to take part in sport, something many of us able-bodied individuals take for granted. They deserve so much more attention and media coverage than they currently receive; why should be Cox, Storey, Ellie Simmonds, Jonnie Peacock and so on be deemed less newsworthy than the likes of Jess Ennis-Hill, Mo Farah and Sir Bradley Wiggins. Each is a hero in their own right, regardless of whether they are disabled or not.
Moaning is an inherent part of human nature; we all do it and there is nothing wrong with having a whine every now and again. Next time I feel the urge to grumble about my ailing body though I’m definitely going to stop and think twice. Not only has Rio 2016 provided great entertainment in the opening few days, it’s also taught me that, really, I am lucky. Whilst I may be incapacitated at the moment, I am otherwise fairly physically healthy and should never take that for granted.