Friday brought with it an early start to allow the athletes to get some training done before their morning session. This time, the focus was on how, as athletes, they will be in situations where they need to interact with sponsors, VIPs, the public and other athletes. The key message was to embrace every opportunity given.
The afternoon saw the team at a welcome lunch hosted by ParalympicsGB. The attendees included the British Paralympic Association Chairman and CEO as well as other ParalympicsGB sponsors such as BP.
There was one statement made by Tim Reddish, who is the Chairman of the British Paralympic Association, that struck a chord with our Help for Heroes athletes, he said: “We want you to be proud because we're proud of you.”
The level of trust, pride and value that everyone involved in the highest levels of Paralympic Sport is placing on our athletes has really blown them away. It really is the first step in them moving from enjoying sport at a recreational level to choosing the life of an elite sportsperson. I know I speak for everyone at Help for Heroes when I say it’s such a privilege and honour for us all to watch, and play a part, in that process, something we can only do thanks to our wonderful supporters.
After lunch, our athletes had an opportunity to have a question and answer session with Sean Rose, a retired Paralympic Alpine Skier who had come to support the Programme. The insight, knowledge and experience that Sean shared with the team was amazing, and so key in the education of enabling our guys to continue to understand what it takes to become a Paralympian.
Following the welcome lunch, it was just across the road to the International Paralympic Committee Pre-Opening Reception which was held for other National Paralympic Committees and VIP guests. It was another great opportunity for the athletes to understand the other duties expected of an athlete.
The highlight of the day was, without shadow of a doubt, the Opening Ceremony. The atmosphere was incredible, everyone was so excited. Seeing the smiles on the faces of the guys on the programme was a pretty humbling moment. As we got closer to the stadium, we stopped for a team photo and were all of a sudden surrounded by tens of spectators who were all taking pictures of the guys which they fully embraced like the professionals they are.
The ceremony itself was a wonderful experience to be a part of and something none of these guys are going to forget. To say I am proud of every single one of them for getting this far, from battling injuries and illness to taking the next step in their recovery is an understatement. Words cannot describe what it felt like to be in that stadium, knowing we were cheering on one military Paralympian we’ve supported who is inspiring eight future hopefuls to achieve their own dreams.
Back through the crowds to the train station then up the mountain to Rosa Khutor for the final journey home, there were some tired faces after a full on day, we arrived back at the station at 1am. As soon as we got off the train the thought of Sochi Dog was in everyone's mind and tired faces turned to excited ones as soon as we saw a new Sochi dog (a little puppy) and we were once again reunited with the original Sochi dog! Soon enough the buses arrived and it was back to the hotel for bed. Tired, but content, I am sure that we will all sleep very well tonight!
An inspirational day today, one that marks the start of something very special for our Paralympic hopefuls of the future.