Why the Paralympics - and my friend Megan - deserve our attention

For possibly the first time in my adult life, the Olympic Games have just passed me by. The first summer Olympics I really remember were the Munich Games of 1972 and since then, I've stayed up until silly hours of the night, got up unfeasibly early and been glued to the television throughout the day for the whole fortnight.

I could tell you who won the Over-60kg judo, who finished third in the men's table tennis and who got the silver medal in the badminton team event. As for the athletics and swimming, not only could I name all the medallists, but I knew all the finalists. This year? I couldn't be bothered. My view of athletics has been changed forever by drugs scandals and my health now tells me that it's not safe to be awake at all hours of the day and night, while there have been things going on in my life which made the Olympics seem unimportant.

I did watch the ladies hockey final and get excited about a team I supported which actually seemed to care about winning a big international event. I did watch some of the cycling, mainly because #breathebalancebeactivatedemily is a keen cyclist and I did watch some of the boxing finals. But the athletics and swimming fell off my radar completely.

But I will take an interest in the Paralympics, which start in Rio de Janeiro on September 7. This is because one of the Great Britain Paralympic cycling team, Megan Giglia, is a stroke-survivor and a patron of Different Strokes, the charity I support and which I have mentioned many times in earlier posts.

I saw Megan, who competes in the C3 category, speak at a DS conference in London a couple of years ago and was profoundly impressed by her courage and her dedication. Megan, who is now aged 31, was a multi-sports coach before suffering a stroke in January 2013 which left her with right-side paralysis. She used her coaching training to help find sports which could aid her recovery and then took up cycling. She progressed quickly and was a double-gold medallist in the UCI Para-Cycling Track World Championships last year, having finished fourth in both the road race and time trial at the Road World Championships in 2015.

Megan and her Paralympic team-mates deserve as much credit and recognition as the GB team which has just come back from Brazil with all those gold medals; arguably more so because of what they have had to overcome to achieve their goals in getting to the Games. Yet reports surfaced this week of woeful ticket sales, budget cuts and unexpected closure of facilities. Media and TV coverage will be nothing like we have seen over the past month and too many people will regard it as an irrelevant sideshow or, much worse, as a freak show.

It's not. It's talented sportsmen and women doing the best they can to be the best they can be. The Olympic ideals speak of physical training being valued for its role in the development of such values as endurance and patience. That applies just as much to Paralympians as Olympians.

People like Megan deserve our respect, our support and our interest. I keep being told that what I do by promoting stroke-awareness is to turn the massive negative of something which so nearly killed me into a massive positive. Megan and her colleagues do that, only a million times more.

They don't deserve to be the victims of 'woeful ticket sales, budget cuts and unexpected closure of facilities." What they do deserves to be promoted and supported.