After an early night it was time to rise and shine for day three in Rio! Morning brief provided an opportunity to reflect on yesterday's visit to the Olympic Park. Everyone enjoyed seeing some live competition and cheering on the Brits but it was the overwhelming sense of scale that really struck the group. Our athlete ambassadors Ben Quilter and Rik Waddon have a wealth of experience between them and have been acting as a sounding board for lots of fantastic questions from athletes and coaching staff alike. Rik even provided the group with a challenge and a money-can't-buy prize (his official adidas socks from the London 2012 Paralympic Games!) for the individual that asked the best question throughout the day - encouraging the group to really get creative.
After boarding the bus it was a short journey to the Athlete Village. It was a real privilege for the group to be granted access and it was an amazing opportunity for them to experience the space and learn more about life as an athlete there.
Following a rigorous security process we headed in to the Plaza area. A post office, McDonalds and other shops are available here and it's the one area media are permitted access to. The imposing tower blocks adorned with different nation's flags stood tall ahead of us and a short walk down to the far end of the accommodation area found us outside ParalympicsGB HQ. There's no missing it; union jacks hung from balconies and the words "talent" "pride" and "determination" lined the perimeter fence. The group settled in an outside seating area, which included some very snazzy deck chairs and bean bags – a place for athletes to relax outside and keep up to date with competition by watching the outdoor television screen (everything really has been thought of!).
The PiP athletes had the opportunity to see inside an apartment and familiarise themselves with the space they would be living in, as well as the other fantastic facilities provided to the team - the ice bath was a particular favourite! One group even bumped into Crystal Lane and she kindly showed us her silver medal that we were lucky enough to watch her win in the velodrome last night.
Lunch in the Food Hall was a real experience for everyone; they’d all been tasked to find their ideal pre-competition meal. With so much choice it was overwhelming for some, but after much deliberation we sat down as a group to eat and take it all in – including the sheer scale of the place! A wander down the road and we popped in to the village gym, polyclinic (similar to a hospital) and entertainment centre (think Playstations and dance machines).
It was then back onto the bus and over to British House where we were introduced to the nearest and dearest team and the lounge where the friends and families of athletes visit and spend time. This was a really calm and relaxing space. It’s reassuring to know that families are so well looked after and there is always somewhere safe and private for an athlete to spend time with their loved ones. Individuals split into groups with their facilitators and de-briefed on the day. There was even time for a couple of interviews on the balcony with the BBC team – putting into practise the media module delivered at the start of the week. As military athlete Jon-Allan Butterworth and Jody Cundy took to the velodrome in the C4 Kilo, we watched on the big screen alongside other British supporters, friend and family – it was a really great atmosphere.
Jon-Allan, who won silver four years ago, set a Paralympic record earlier in the competition but settled for fourth as he saw the next three to go better his time. He competes in the Mixed Team Sprint on Sunday.
Tomorrow the PiP programme splits into smaller groups to visit specific sports that are competing. This provides athletes with an opportunity to immerse themselves in the atmosphere and understand a bit more about the specifics of their own competition. For our para-triathletes this will be a real first as it’s a new sport to the Rio Games.
PiP athlete Brandon Coleman said: "The athlete village was really massive - it felt chilled there, a home from home for the ParalympicsGB athletes. I'm heading back to the Olympic Park tomorrow to watch the judo – which is another visually impaired sport so I will be interested to see the similarities and differences with my sport (football). The overall experience so far has excelled my expectations. I've taken lots of things from the journey that I didn't expect to. It's been amazing so far, a once in a lifetime experience. For me, I’m also still learning and getting more comfortable with being blind (Brandon lost his sight only four years ago). I'm really looking forward to seeing the blind football on Sunday."
Tomorrow is a busy day for the military cohort, with Joe Townsend (Para-triathlon), Phil Eaglesham (Shooting, Paralympics Ireland), Mikey Hall (Archery), Micky Yule (Powerlifting), and Dave Henson (Athletics) all taking to the stage to compete.