AFTER ten days of inspirational sporting achievement which had the country glued to their television sets came to an end, three lucky local women have spoken of the “fantastic experience” of helping out at the Paralympics.
Nicola Fowler, 28, has mild cerebral palsy but became a Paralympics Games Maker, meeting and greeting visitors to the North Greenwich Arena for the wheelchair basketball events - something she will “never forget.”
Nicola, who works at North Bridlington Library on Martongate, said: “My role was to meet people, give them directions if they needed them or advice, I spoke to literally hundreds and hundreds of people every day and it was a lot of fun.
“I don’t think there was one stand out moment for me - the entire Games was very positive and a fantastic experience.”
Nicola was a particularly big fan of the wheelchair basketball event, which she was lucky enough to see first hand when not working.
“It’s a great game, but it is vicious. It was shocking to see when tyres blew on the wheelchair the athlete would just hold it up, and someone would come on to fix it.
“As I wasn’t working with the athletes I didn’t get to meet many of them, but I made lots of new friends down there and the atmosphere was great.”
While busy working at the Games, Nicola says she did not realise how popular the Paralympics were for those watching at home.
“Everyone I have spoken to since I got back last Saturday has said that it was incredible, and that they really enjoyed it. I watched the closing ceremony on TV and they mentioned how important the Games Makers were to the running of the games and that’s when it hit me what an honour it was to be a part of the Paralympics. I’m very proud.
“One thing that struck me was that there were a lot of schoolchildren who went along to the events last week, and it’s good that young people will go along and see that normal is not normal, but that everyone is different.”
Another local lady who helped out at the Paralympics was 33-year-old Bridlington School teacher Clare Gardiner.
Clare, who lives in Driffield, worked at the International Paralympic Hospitality Centre welcoming members and guests of the Paralympic Committees.
“I was lucky enough to be able to meet all sorts of interesting people involved with the Paralympic movement including Mandeville, the Paralympic mascot,” said Clare.
“The atmosphere throughout the games was phenomenal. Everyone was smiling, the people of London were welcoming and the transport and facilities were really impressive. It really felt as though paralympians were being celebrated for their superb sporting abilities rather than any disabilities they might have had.”
Clare attended the Paralympic Opening Ceremony, and said: “My highlight was seeing the Paralympic team from Ethiopia walk into the stadium. I lived in Ethiopia for two years and I was so proud to see Paralympic athletes from Ethiopia entering the stadium.
“On Sunday I also saw David Weir competing in the marathon – what an amazing athlete.”
Another Driffield based Bridlington School teacher, Marie Miles, worked at the Royal Artillery Barracks in the Protocol section - meeting and greeting dignitaries including royalty, International Olympic Committee members, politicians and other celebrities.
Marie, 37, helped ensure they could access qualifying rounds and finals and finding out information for them regarding other venues and athletes they were hoping to see.
She said: “My Olympic experience started the Wednesday before the opening ceremony as I was lucky enough to be invited to the final dress rehearsal, the venue was spectacular and the production was amazing even with a few things deliberately kept under wraps.
“I was privileged to work with a wonderful group of people from all over the world and the atmosphere was electric – with records being broken on a daily basis. All of the athletes, spectators and workers were wonderful, friendly people and the experience is one I will never forget.
“The highlight of the shooting for me was when Peter Wilson won the Gold medal – I was lucky enough to be on medal wrangling duty that day (escorting the medal presenters) so had a close up of all the action. Peter is a lovely person who was so humbled by all of the support he received.”
Marie said that during the Olympics and Paralympics London was like a different city.
“Having worked there for three years before moving to Bridlington, I’ve never before have people been so enthusiastic, friendly and proud to be British. The whole of the summer has been a joy and I can’t imagine what I will find to do next year that will even nearly compare. I am thinking of volunteering for the Commonwealth Games if that is possible.”
Both of the teachers have donated memorabilia collected to Bridlington school so that a display can be put up for students and visitors.