Armstrong still cheating, still looking down
ATHLETICS:If there is one last, sorry conflict to Lance Armstrong’s fall from grace it’s how he so emotionally drew in so many admirers, and how he was, and perhaps still is, such an inspiration to so many
‘NEVER LOOK down on anybody unless you’re helping them up.” The Rev Jesse Jackson said that – and it’s what Mark Rohan now says is one of the lessons of his sporting life.
Long before Rohan won two gold medals at the Paralympics in London, he vowed to put something back into his sport, help it empower people the way it did himself, which is why later today, he’ll be giving a presentation on handcycling at the Paralympics Ireland talent search event at UCD.
The purpose is not just to identify those athletes with a disability that might be capable of success on the world stage, ideally at the 2016 Paralympics in Rio, but also to inspire and motivate them, and ultimately help them rise above whatever unfortunate circumstances life has thrown at them, that perhaps had left certain people looking down on them.
Not easily done these days, not when we’re all left wondering if there really is such a thing as the true sporting icon anymore. I can still fondly remember when it felt like the entire sporting world was looking up to Lance Armstrong, and not just those of us cycling over the Wicklow Gap on a Sunday morning – using his tolerance for pain as our inspiration, while the wind hurled derision at our efforts.
Now it’s hard to know where to look for inspiration. Although after meeting Rohan, for the first time, handling his two gold medals, and talking about how he was handling the changes in his life since his success in London, it seems there is at least still room for the more modest sporting inspirations: the difference is in remembering that pride always comes before a fall.
It’s almost 11 years to the day now since Rohan fell off his motorbike, not far from his home at Ballinahown, in Westmeath. He was 20 years old, had a promising Gaelic football career, and in the impact of the crash broke several bones in his back, chest, legs and feet, and tore his aorta. When he eventually came to in the hospital he was told he was paralysed from the chest down. Sport then became his inspiration, only in a far deeper sense, basketball at first, then handcycling, where the freedom of the open road removed all sense of disability.