BUDDIES: Jack Walter poses with Steve Ferguson (right), his Beijing Paralympic sidekick. (Photo courtesy Jack Walter)

Suffering from Olympics withdrawl and find yourself calculating how many days until your next gold medal fix?

Well, you’re in luck. The Olympic torch has been lit once more in London, this time for the 2012 Paralympic Games.

The Opening Ceremony was held on Aug. 29 and the games end on Sept. 9.

I’m in London, covering the games for the Daily Press. I first became interested in handicap sports (now called adaptive sports) after I saw a one-legged skier at Snowbird, Utah in the mid 1980s. Back in Los Angeles, I found a handicap ski program at Mountain High in Southern California and volunteered to help work the program. During the summer I sought out other handicap sports (basketball, rugby, water skiing), finding myself fascinated with the world of handicap athletes. Every athlete and sport has a different complexity to it that is as numerous as there is athletes.

Because I have taught and supported athletes with challenges, I find the Paralympics far more interesting than the Olympics. I have attended the Paralympics in Atlanta, Sydney, Athens, Salt Lake City (yes there is winter Paralympics also) Beijing, and now London to watch the games and cheer for the athletes. Of course I always want my friends and the USA to win medals, which gets tougher with every four years. The Paralympics is a fierce and highly completive world event. These athletes representing their countries go through grueling years of conditioning and qualifications to get to the games, and hopefully win medals — gold preferably.

This trip to the London Paralympic games is dedicated to my friend Steve Ferguson, who was my Beijing Paralympic sidekick. We did the Paralympics and had a blast! Steve died from cancer in August of last year. He was 45. I was looking forward to being crazy with you in London, Steve, you will be missed my friend.

The London Paralympic Games are the largest ever, featuring more than 4,200 athletes from 166 countries who will compete in 20 sports, with coverage in the U.S. never before seen. My goal with this column is to hopefully expose more people to the beauty of the Paralympic Games and to encourage more networks to cover footage of the athletes competing. Then, and only then, can we begin to tear down the stereotypes and show these atheletes the respect they deserve.

U.S. Paralympics will provide 10 daily-highlight packages via its U.S. Paralympics YouTube channel. In addition to the online content, NBC Sports Network (NBCSN) will air one-hour highlight shows on Sept. 4, 5, 6 and 11 at 7 p.m. EDT. Following the Paralympic Games, on Sept. 16, NBC will broadcast a 90-minute special from 2 p.m. to 3:30 p.m. EDT. All NBC and NBC Sports Network Paralympic highlight shows and specials will re-air on Universal Sports Network and UniversalSports.com.

The International Paralympic Committee will also live-stream more than 780 hours of sports at www.paralympic.org, including daily coverage of swimming and wheelchair basketball, while a fourth channel will cover a wider range of sports. A fifth channel will broadcast a mixture of sports with Spanish commentary.

So please tune in and show your support. I gaurantee the emotions will be just as palpable, the competition just as fierce and the triumphs just as uplifting as those “other” games.

 

Jack Walter is a Santa Monican who develops real estate and manufacturs wood products to help fund nonprofits focused on rehabilitative sports.