Today I visited once again the Aquatic Centre at the Olympic park. Two reasons behind this decision – to experience once again the incredible atmosphere there and to try and overcome the personal feelings watching the most disabled athletes. Again there were amazing competitions, beaten records and lot of admiration of the swimmers. The winners are from the known countries 🙂 plus Brazil – greetings to my Brazilian colleague.
As I mentioned yesterday, Ukraine is making really a great Paralympics and they also won medals today at the pool. But it is not just a coincidence. There is huge preparation and all media here are commenting it. What is needed in order country as Ukraine – not a EU member, with lot of political internal issues, not a rich one (in terms of GDP per capita), historically not paying attention to disabled people to create such a dream team? Below is the summary of the key success factors for creating champions and role models (taken from some media in UK):
1. Leadership – there is a man called Valeriy Sushkevych – the founder and president of the Paralympic Committee of Ukraine and two-time disabled swimming champion in the Soviet Union. This man has the power as member of the Ukrainian parliament and the creativity and determination to change the status quo
2. Organization (at educational level) – a system known as Invasport is created. There is now at least one school in every region of Ukraine dedicated to introducing a new generation of disabled children to everything from volleyball to athletics and swimming to powerlifting. For most, the experience gives them confidence, friends and an element of physical rehabilitation. A select few become tomorrow’s champions. Today, this system is recognised as one of the best in the world.
3. Training facilities – the flagship hub for Ukraine’s Paralympic movement is a training centre on the Black Sea coast in Yevpatoria, Crimea. This state-of-the-art base is built on the site of a former Communist youth camp, and now has some of the best facilities in Europe for both disabled and non-disabled athletes.
4. Funding (highly related with leadership) – the Government provides most of the funding, although additional income is generated by hiring out rooms at the training centre to holidaymakers and those seeking to use the facilities for rehabilitation. There are only two sponsors (private companies) who “share the same values – freedom and willpower”.
5. Marketing – the government is making a concerted effort with domestic media to promote the team’s successes at London 2012. “We have to talk to our media which doesn’t cover the Paralympics enough. ..Change will come with time because there are heroes in Olympics, but there are also heroes in Paralympics. They are the pride of the nation and everyone should know about them.” – minister of sports said
6. Incentives – the Ukrainian government will award substantial prize money to medal-winners in both the Olympics and Paralympics.
The result is: 150 qualified athletes at the Games. 74 medals (30 gold) and 4-th place in the country classification after China, GB and Russia.
Words of one of their best athletes who has a from dwarfism – “Of course, through sport I’ve achieved a lot. Everything. Before sport I had practically nothing. Actually, not practically – literally I had nothing…Now I have the attention from my team-mates and from my friends outside sport. I’m more respected now and have official state honours. I’m not a nobody.”
See some pictures of the Olympic park by night.