Recommended second chance
After Team GB’s success in the Olympics, attention now turns to the Paralympics where competitors are hoping to top the incredible 102 medals – including 42 golds – won in Beijing.
C4 sports presenter Daraine Mulvihill will be following all the action and has fought her own personal battle with disability after losing both legs below the knee and part of her hands to meningitis in 1999 when she was 16.
A promising cross-country runner who represented Ireland at junior level before the illness struck, she was recruited by C4 via a public appeal for presenters with disabilities to join the Paralympic presenting team. TV Choice caught up with her during preparations for the Games.
People have really got behind the Games, why do you think there's been such a sea change?
I think it’s just the appeal of sport. Something like the Olympics is so accessible to everybody and the BBC has done such a good job explaining things, getting people involved and that’s what we’re hoping to do with the Paralympics. When viewers have got someone to follow and get behind, they’re going to come with you along the way. Also, so many British athletes are winning medals and to see the greats of sport here, in one place, is amazing.
Can the Paralympians improve the medal tally of 2008?
I think there will be a gold rush! They won 42 golds in Beijing and I would say they have every chance of getting 50 in London. There’s been so much training and dedication, and a lot of Paralympic athletes train alongside Olympic athletes at the same training camps. With the home crowd, the level will move up again.
What will the highlights be?
I think the real showdown will be the Men’s 100m final with Oscar Pistorius, GB’s Jonnie Peacock, who has just turned 19, and all the big names in Paralympic sprinting. It’s going to be huge. The wheelchair basketball will also be breathtaking. The nets and baskets are as high as a regular court for able-bodied players who are 7ft tall and these players are in wheelchairs scoring as many baskets per game. I think people will be shocked when they see wheelchair rugby (also called Murder Ball) because there are no holds barred in that sport. It’s just people bashing into each other, crazy!
Can they continue the success of the Olympic cyclists and rowers?
Yes, definitely in cycling. The British cycling Paralympic team got 17 golds in Beijing, which was by far the most successful sport and they will probably replicate that again. British rower Tom Aggar is undefeated, it’s unreal. He’s just so athletic and also really good looking, so we like him!
Will swimmer Ellie Simmonds – double gold medal winner in Beijing – find it tough to defend her titles like Rebecca Adlington?
It’s going to be harder this time and her world record was recently broken out of the blue by an American girl Victoria Arlen. She’ll be right on Ellie’s coat tails in the race, but I think Ellie will do it because she will have the crowd factor and the buzz behind her.
Do you still participate in sport?
Yeah, I’ve been learning to run on blades over the past few months. It’s been quite an experience and has really opened my eyes to how difficult it is. I was a successful runner before [my illness], I won a lot of medals and I thought I’d be able to take to the blades straight away, but it takes a lot of dedication, just balancing on them is a feat. But it’s been brilliant, such a journey.
Are you inspired by the athletes?
Definitely and I think viewers will be, too. For me, personally, I’m an amputee, so when I look at somebody like Oscar Pistorius who is a double leg amputee, I think, 'Gosh, they’re doing it, there’s no reason why I shouldn’t be doing it.’ I think Oscar gave me the inspiration. It’s easy to make life comfortable and OK for yourself. It’s not nice to put yourself out there sometimes and try something you might fail at, but I think that’s what life is all about. If you get the chance to try something new, you need to go out and try it.
It must have been very emotional after all that’s happened…
It was because sport is something that I really felt was lacking from my life for a long time. I was in hospital for a full year and then it was another year learning how to walk, so the first two years were written off. Then I just concentrated on getting back to school and normal life. I forgot about sport for a while. It was only when I was able to do all the normal things again like go shopping that I missed sport and the buzz of competing.
You were discovered via a C4 appeal for presenters with disabilities, has it been an interesting experience?
Yes, I was watching TV at home in Dublin when this ad came on, so I applied and got through to boot camp. Then I had a week of screen tests and then I came to London, spending time at Sky Sports News, BBC and ESPN. It was only in December last year that I heard I’d been picked to front one of the programmes. I’m doing the morning show with Jonathan Edwards, which will be brilliant.
Finally, what can we expect from the opening ceremony?
They are saying it will be as good as the Olympic opening ceremony. I know they’ve drafted in thousands of disabled acrobats to put on a performance because someone I know personally is involved and apparently it’s amazing. As for everything else, it’s all hush hush.
C4 & More 4, starts Wed