Holmes on Laws on Paralympics

Like many, I was disgusted with what Michael Laws said about paralympians last week. Belittling the efforts of those who spend eight hours a day training to be the best they can be was very stupid, and Paul Holmes let loose in response:

Some of the finest, most inspirational men and women I have ever known have been Paralympians.

But Michael Laws thinks Paralympic sport is ludicrous.

No, Michael, it’s not ludicrous. It’s actually brilliant.

It’s brilliant that it exists and it is genuinely brilliant to see.

In Christchurch this summer, at the Paralympic World Championships (as opposed to the Paralympic Games themselves), those of us there watched the brilliant South African Oscar Pistorius run on his carbon-fibre plates.

Pistorius is one second slower over 100m than Usain Bolt. Bolt, of course, does not have to endure the pain of the impact on the point where the prostheses meet the flesh. But Paralympians will never tell you about that because Paralympians, in my experience, rarely complain.

This is something many people don’t realise – many paralympians battle significant pain when they compete – not just your normal pain of exertion.

No, Michael. Paralympics is not ludicrous. Going out to Howick and shagging a P addict on bail who’s called you up on the radio programme is ludicrous. Having the cops come round to your home because you’re being beaten up by your wife is ludicrous.

Fighting desperately over an “H” in the name of a town is ludicrous.


I wanted to cry when I read Michael Laws’ comments. After the decades of struggle by Paralympics to be recognised not as some kind of therapy for cripples, but as genuine sport performed with dedication by physically impaired people, we get an ignorant comment from an intelligent broadcaster who should know better. …

Believe me, no one makes it to the Paralympics unless they are the best of the best. And every day there is the hassle of getting up, perhaps getting through the spasms, getting into the chair, getting to the toilet, getting clean and getting into the day. Paralympians are people who never gave up.

Paralympians are different from able-bodied sports people, that is true. But the runner is different from the shot-putter and the shot-putter is different from the soccer player. What about it? The runner does not say the shot-putter is not a sportsman.

I have a picture in my mind from the Olympic Pool at Barcelona during the 1992 Paralympics. It has stayed with me forever. A young woman lifts herself out of the pool. She levers herself out, really.

She has little stumps for legs with little feet and little toes. She has only one arm and it is a stump too, with a little hand and little fingers. I suppose thalidomide might have been involved. She is truly, stunningly beautiful. She has won her event. Her radiant smile I will never forget.

Words matter, Michael. Words are the most powerful weapon a human being has. Words can build up, they can save a soul, they can make someone feel love, they can cheer the down-trodden and the sad and those who lack purpose.

They can lift the heart and restore the spirit. But they can destroy too, and hurt, and demean those who do their very best to achieve against the odds to become talented, winning sportsmen and women.

One of Paul’s best ever columns.

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