Curtis Palmer is a presenter on Attitude and a veteran Wheel
Black competing at his fourth Paralympics in Beijing. He's
writing a blog about his experiences.
Sept 14: And the dream is over
And the dream is over.
Sorry to say that the dreams of Paralympic glory are done and dusted for us. The loss to Aussie now means the best we can hope for is 5th.
I'm finding it pretty hard to write this blog and the only positive thing I can think of to say is that I'm stoked with the way I played and I can honestly look back on this and say I'm proud of my contribution.
The boys are understandably in shock right now as it's the first time since 2002 that we've been in this position so early in a competition. For the last few years we've been consistently in the top three.
We had a hiccup last year and dropped to 5th but clawed our way
back up to 2nd in the world coming into the Paralympics.
The cold hard reality of living in a small country at the bottom of the world is setting in. We've always done better than we should've, always punched above our weights.
We're the smallest team around with only 48 players nationally to choose from; we only carry 8 players to tournaments compared to other teams 12; we play against teams with big budgets and large numbers to choose from.
A lot of players make a living out of the sport...not us...it's love or nothing, I play this sport because I love it and I love the travel, the friendship, the competition but what drives me most is I'm doing what I'd be doing if it wasn't for my accident 16 years ago.
I'm a sportsman...it's what I do...wheelchair or not...win or lose. I'm there for the love.
I have always said that this Paralympics would be the hardest fought and that any team could take it and so far it's looking that way. GB (Great Britain) and Aussie will give both Canada and the US a shake up in their perspective semi's and finals but I'm gutted that we won't be there.
In all of my preparation I never ever expected to be in this position and with three more games this chapter of my life is over...
I'll be damed if I come home with anything less than 5th.
Sept 12: We can still do this
Damn it hurts to lose. We went down tonight (Friday) against Great Britain by one point in the dying seconds of the game.
I've already had a pysch session to get my head in the right space for tomorrow's game against Australia. A team we know we can beat.
So what went wrong? Well it's hard to say. All sorts of cliches come to mind but the most apt is, we stuffed up.
Don't get me wrong we put everything into it but we didn't convert when we needed to.
Don't worry though we're still alive. If we beat Australia and Germany and then Aussie beats GB then we finish top of our pool.
Anyway it's 11pm at the moment so I'm off to bed. I'm still confident we can do this.
Sept 12: Good to go
It's 45 mins before we catch a bus to our venue for our first game. I'm laying on my bed listening to Trinity Roots and going over the game in my mind. I feel good and I know what we need to do to win. I'm confident.
Today was a mix of watching Ultimate Fighting dvds, eating and hanging out. Very low key. We also had a video session to go over our tactics.
It's time people and I am looking forward to it. I'm expecting a close game.
I just want to say thanks for all the support. We've had a
constant stream of faxes and email coming through.
It's real nice.
Sept 11: Fizzing for the court
Not much happening in my world right now. It's girl power around here at the moment and I couldn't be prouder of our gutsy Kiwis. Five medals already. Hopefully you've seen the footage or read the reports so I won't tell you much more.
I can say that anytime we win a medal or someone performs this place is lit up. It's infectious and makes you want to do just as well. We don't start playing until tomorrow night so I'm fizzing to play. Our warm up game against Germany went to plan and at this time the only thing that can beat us is ourselves. We have got the goods to go all the way, it's up to us now.
To kill some time I've been checking out the arts and crafts
shop in the village. I haven't purchased much but I'm totally
impressed with the work they are doing. Some of the crafters are
disabled. I guess life can be tough here so they are carving a life
for themselves by selling their wares.
I saw mask painting, paper carving, statue makers, stone stamp carvers, embroiderers. I found one guy who makes and paints kites. I asked him if he would draw a dragon on one of my shirts and man was I happy at the result. He went over and above what I expected him to and all for a pin.
Keith Quinn wrote about the "Pin Pricks" in his report on the TVNZ website and I have to agree with him in some way - it can be a pain in the ass when people hound you for pins. But like most things in life there are advantages. The NZ pins are almost like currency. The guy I got my dragon done by only wanted a pin for his two days work. Sweet bro. Keith Quinn's blog here
We've got another day of doing not much ahead of us so if
anything exciting happens I'll let you know. For now it's back to
bed to watch movies.
Sept 9: In come the medals
Its impossible not to get caught up in the electrifying environment when someone wins a medal.
Earlier this morning Paula Tesorerio won her 500m Time trial. Those that couldn't get to the track sat in front of the tv in the office to watch her stunning performance. You should've seen it. We were all screaming at the telly in encouragement.
It was so exciting and quite emotional. I'm so amped for the 12th for that's when we start playing. I was so proud and happy for Paula.
As a presenter on Attitude I've followed Paula's progress closely throughout the year. I felt right there with her as she powered her way to the line.
The little pocket rocket even Mahe Drysdaled it when she passed out after her race had finished while still on her bike and broke her fall with her chin, concussing her and robbing her of any memory of the race.
She'd cooked herself and had absolutely nothing left in the tank...That's true Kiwi spirit for ya, good on ya girl.
When she returned to the village after drug testing and a visit to the health spa we gave her a Haka...and a cuddle.
We were all back in the TV room screaming our heads off when 15 year old Sophie Pascoe surpassed all expectations by winning silver in her supposed weakest event, the 100m butterfly.
At time of writing she hasn't returned from the Cube yet but from the look on her face during the medal ceremony she's a very happy girl. The look on her face as she was on the starting block was one of sheer determination. I saw that look when I followed Sophie to the IWAS games in Taipei last year.
She kicked ass there too. I'm looking forward to seeing what she can do in her strongest event.
Its been a quiet and relaxing day for the boys. We had a warm up
game against Japan last night and although we won by 2 it wasn't
clinical. We had a rest day today and I'm feeling great. Being a
veteran I need the rest.
Talk to ya soon.
Sept 7: Opening Ceremony
As I write this you'll hopefully be watching the Opening
Ceremony replay on TV ONE or through ondemand. I'm sure you'll agree that
the Chinese have surpassed any other Opening Ceremony in history. I
can comfortably say that that was the most amazing show I've ever
I sat in wonder for the majority of the two hour extravaganza. I was so impressed with the choreography of the event. The dance routines were mesmorising, the songs enchanting, the lighting and mechanics phenomenal.
We entered the stadium to be greeted by 100000 people. I wasn't all that excited before we entered but once we were in I was like a little puppy wagging my little tail with excitement. What a wonderful feeling. To be recognised and applauded by so many people is an unforgettable experience.
I had my doubts about how China would treat the Paralympic Games. I was hoping they would not repeat what we went through in Atlanta in 96 when we were treated poorly. The forgotten event almost.
China has silenced the critics by putting on a display on equal footing to the Olympics and has embraced disability like never before. For a country who has a shady record concerning disability they have sent out a statement. I have never felt more appreciated, valued or embraced.
You can probably tell I still buzzing a bit. I didn't get a lot of sleep last night in part because of the euphoria I felt from the Opening Ceremony but also in part from the massive thunder and lighting storm we had.
The things that impressed me most were the sheer numbers of performers and volunteers involved, the 320 hearing impaired ballet dancers, the hearing impaired kids dancing, the blind pianist, the lighting of the flame and the list goes on. Man it was awesome.
We were sitting right under the flame as it was lit and right in front of the stage. Luckily we were directly under the small group of Kiwi supporters as well.
So far China has got the big thumbs up from me.
September 5: Haka and honours
First of all ease up on calling me a veteran! I may have been
playing for a while but I'm only 31 years old...I've still got
plenty of years in me.
But seriously at 31 I am feeling the pinch. My shoulders, wrists and bicep tendons are all telling me I need a bloody good break after this is all over. Even so I feel like I'm playing the best I ever have and I'm really enjoying it. I used to crap myself before big games, nerves would get the best of me and I'd always finish the competition with regrets. These days I'm in total control and can't wait to start playing.
Yesterday (Thursday) we went to the venue where we'll be playing to have a look. It's massive and surpasses all other stadia I've played in. The facilities are perfect with huge changing rooms, warm up areas and fantastic seating for spectators. Unlike Athens we're close to the village so we should get good crowds. I'm wondering how Davey K and Adam our two rookies are feeling about it. I've played in front of big crowds before and it's an amazing feeling. I hope it doesn't faze them to much.
Being a Wheel Black is an honour. Just like the All Black
jersey, the Wheel Black singlet is something to be treasured. You
earn it and once you have it in your possession you become part of
a family. That respect was evident when we had a wee ceremony where
Captain Daniel Buckingham gave out our singlets.
It was a touching moment I'll never forget. He called out each player and told us all why we are such valued members of the team. He brought back some great memories and his words were inspiring. He made it feel real.
Later that night we had the flag raising ceremony. We were
sharing this experience along with Canada and Uzbekistan and if
they didn't know who we were before the ceremony they certainly
knew by the time it was over. When Chef de Mission, Duane Kale, was
being presented with some gifts as part of the ceremony we sang a
waiata and busted out a massive team Haka. It brought us all
together as one team and one nation and was a proud moment.
I'm usually a pretty quiet guy who doesn't like the limelight too much so at first I was a little uneasy about the attention we were bringing upon ourselves. That faded after about three seconds and I gave it all I had to let the whole village know that the NZ team was here. I loved the way the whole team embraced this and I loved the way it brought us closer together.
Today we had our first training session. Us veterans found the
venue really hot and the floor was a pig. We trained at a different
venue to where we'll be playing thankfully as this court was
substandard. At first I thought there was something wrong with my
chair. I felt tried and didn't seem to be able to push very fast. I
was relieved when the other guys were feeling the same.
We had a pretty good session and was great to blow out some cobwebs. I managed to donk my head though. I had a head clash with Dan and we both saw a few stars. We've got tomorrow off for the Opening Ceremony then we play Japan in a warm up game...can't wait.
We raced back from the training session at 40 kph. For some reason the buses won't go any faster. We had a function to go to at the NZ Embassy so once we got back to the village we jumped into our number 1's and had another hour drive - this time we got up to 60 kph. Waiting for us was a crowd of Kiwi friends, family, media, ex-pats and the Ambassador. He put on a meal for us as we mingled with the guests and we had a few speeches.
Duane Kale reminded us of the sad and shocking loss we experienced when our mate Graham Condon died this year. A tear came to my eye as I thought of the great things he did before he died. He kick-started so many sporting careers and was instrumental in the development of SPARC. A 6 time Paralympian, he was truly a man to look up to. It was an extremely apt moment to bring up his memory to inspire us. I had a tear in my eye for sure.
The function also gave us the opportunity to name the flag bearer for the Opening Ceremony. Team Captain Tim Prendergast had the privilege of giving Wheel Black Sholto Taylor from Hastings the honour. Veteran of four Paralympics Games with two bronze medals and gold from Athens, the former Wheel Black Captain will do us proud. The perfect person for the job.
I'll leave it there for today. Big day tomorrow. I'll let you know how it goes.
September 4: Settling in
What's it like to be an athlete at the 2008 Beijing Paralympics?
To be honest to the outsider it's probably really boring. I've
been in the Paralympic village now for 3 days and 2 nights and all
I have done is eat, sleep, train and watch movies. My attitude
towards this chapter in my life is do whatever it takes to have my
body in the primo-est condition so that I finish this campaign with
That means doing jack s**t and thinking about rugby as much as possible. I've done all the hard work and the last 18 months have been the hardest of my life. But that's cool because its got me here in relatively good condition (I have an on-going shoulder injury that is still bugging me). That's what it is to be an athlete competing at the 2nd largest sporting event in the world...making the sacrifices worthwhile.
You have to be ruthless, selfish and anal because at this level every little bit counts.
Hopefully what you've gathered from reading Dan's blog is that this event is no different to the warm up event to the Paralympics; the Olympics. The press coverage from international media is phenomenal. The world has opened their eyes to the significance of this event and are according it the respect it deserves.
Things are all good here so far. We've settled into the
accommodation with no problems. The apartments are perfect for all
disabilities, are clean and really comfy. Grant's managed to
commandeer the biggest and best room for himself and Dan and Jai
have been busy with the handycam.
Me, well I've been lying low and keeping it simple. I have a tendency to over complicate situations that are relatively simple. I've done a lot of work on this and pretty much have my entire 3 weeks mapped out. My goal is to remain focused and relaxed.
After all I've been playing this game for 16 years so I think I know how its done. Sometimes I wonder why that statement is so hard to remember....