Libby Clegg with her guide runner
Their tales of tragedy, determination and bravery are staggering. Yet the Paralympians don’t want your sympathy… instead, they want to prove that – if you set your mind to something – nothing need stand in your way.
With the Paralympic Games Opening Ceremony just hours away, here are just a few of the inspirational athletes to look out for… along with details of how you can access our behind the scenes blog. We can’t wait!
Registered blind and already a silver medallist and winner of the 100m and 200m at the IPC Athletics European Championships, Libby is proof nothing can get in the way of sheer determination and hard work. And she’s even more delighted to be taking part after news her guide runner Mikail is now eligible for a medal too.
'It is a bit like doing the three-legged race but attached by your hands rather than your feet’, she says. 'To execute the run properly you need to be smooth and in time, with both the pace and the stride length correct. Mikail and I need to communicate to make sure our performance is the best it can be. It's a team effort, it's not just me. I'm the one that has to cross the line first, but when I get medals I want Mikail to be with me because he helps me do it.'
Derek Derenalagi was pronounced dead
Derek Derenalagi, 37
After being caught in an explosion in Afghanistan – a catastrophe that saw both his legs blown off – doctors didn’t hold out hope for Derek. And just hours later, he was pronounced dead. But as medical staff went to put him in a body bag, they felt a faint pulse…
‘I was in a coma for eight days and when I came around I saw my wife next to the bed’, says Derek. ‘I told her I wanted to go to the toilet. She told me I couldn't as 'You've got no legs'. I kept on insisting until in the end, she took a picture…When I looked at myself I was lost for the words.’
Yet Derek’s fighting spirit is extraordinary. Five years on, he has adapted to his disability and is now preparing to take part in the 2012 Paralympics. A true hero.
Josie Pearson competed in wheelchair basketball at the 2008 Games
Josie Pearson, 26
Josie was just 17 and a keen showjumper when her life changed in a split second. Caught up in a head-on car crash, her boyfriend of xx years was killed… and she broke her neck.
Left paralysed from the chest down, she admitted having moments of ‘why me’. But this has not held Josie back. ‘I think I was always ambitious and very stubborn’, she, says. ‘I was always active – you have to get up and give it your all otherwise you don’t get anywhere in life.’
And don't forget... We’ll also have a regular behind-the-scenes blog with Sky Sports News journalists Orla Chennaoui and Lia Hervey, so stay tuned for all the latest Paralympic news…