We are well into the second week of the 2012 Paralympics in London.
Though the Paralympics are so named because they take place alongside, or parallel to, the Olympic Games, they don’t receive parallel media coverage.
Which is a shame, because it means that many incredible moments are not seen by the majority of sports fans.
Basic cable subscribers here in the States only get 5 hours and 30 minutes of Paralympic coverage: four one-hour highlight shows and one 90-minute recap show, all on the NBC Sports Network during dinner time.
Eight-time medalist Tatyana McFadden celebrates her second gold medal of the London games. (AFP PHOTO/GLYN KIRKGLYN)
So, for example, you may not have seen any 5-a-side football matches.
5-a-side football is soccer without sight. Blind and visually impaired players compete on a short field, using a ball with a noise-making device.
Here are the defending 5-a-side gold medalists from Brazil in action in a blowout win over Turkey:
This year’s Paralympic Games have featured plenty of memorable performances and great stories, even if they’re hard to find on TV.
Here are but a few of the incredible moments you may have missed:
1. Alan Fonteles Cardoso Oliveira comes from nowhere to upset Oscar Pistorius in the men’s 200-meter T44.
South African runner Oscar Pistorius was billed as the star of the 2012 Paralympics after becoming the first amputee runner to qualify for the Olympics and advancing to the semifinals in the men’s 400 meters.
Pistorius—who won gold in the 100, 200, and 400 at the 2008 Paralympics in Beijing—was a heavy favorite in his first race, the men’s 200 meters T44.
“The Blade Runner” got off to a quick start and appeared to be on his way to an easy win, but Brazil’s Alan Fonteles Cardoso Oliveira made a late push to overtake the field and beat Pistorius to the finish line.
Pistorius made matters worse by suggesting shortly after the race that the length of Oliveira’s prosthetic blades gave him an unfair advantage. Though Pistorius had voiced concerns about blade length several weeks ago, bringing up the issue right after losing a race he was favored to win made the South African look petty.
Pistorius apologized for the timing of his complaint but not for the complaint itself. Tuesday he tweeted, “Still very much regretting my reaction on Monday in heat of the moment.”
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2. Armless Chinese swimmers Zheng Tao and Lu Dong set world records in the men’s and women’s 100 backstroke S6.
Swimmers with a wide range of physical impairments compete in the S6 classification at the Paralympics. Some have use of both arms but are without a leg; others have full use of both legs but are missing an arm.
While swimming uses the entire body and the best swimmers rely heavily on their legs and core muscles, for many swimmers much of their power comes from the arms. So a swimmer without any arms would appear to be at a significant disadvantage.
But a lack of arms didn’t keep Chinese swimmers Zheng Tao and Lu Dong from winning their respective 100 backstroke races by healthy margins and in world record time.
Backstrokers don’t dive off of starting blocks; they begin their races in the water and pull up on a bar to get themselves into starting position. Swimmers without arms obviously cannot hold onto a bar, so they get into position by gripping a towel with their mouths.
Many top backstrokers rely on a long reach to out-touch their opponents. Zheng and Lu must touch the wall with their heads.
Here are Zheng and Lu in action:
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3. American wheelchair racer Tatyana McFadden wins her 7th and 8th Paralympic medals: golds in the 400 and 800.
Tatyana McFadden made her Paralympic debut eight years ago in Athens when she was only 15. That year she won a silver medal in the women’s 100 meters and bronze in the women’s 200, T54 classification (wheelchair athlete with full use of arms and hands). She returned in Beijing and won three silver medals—in the 200, 400, and 800—and a bronze in the 4 x 100 relay.
Monday McFadden added her first gold medal to an already impressive medal collection, winning the 400. She followed that up on Wednesday by winning another gold, this one in the 800.
Here she is in the 400:
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4. Raymond Martin wins gold for the United States in 100- and 400-meter wheelchair races.
New Jersey’s Raymond Martin was born with a congenital condition called arthrogryposis that limits flexibility in his joints and has left him unable to straighten his legs. Though Martin is only 18, he has already had 17 surgeries.
He also has a couple gold medals. Martin took gold in the men’s 100 meters T52 on Sunday then came back Monday to win the 400. Here he is in the 400:
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5. Great Britain’s David Wetherill hits a table tennis shot for the ages.
This clip of British table tennis player David Wetherill throwing himself to the ground to hit an amazing cross-table winner has been making the rounds on television and the Internet.
And if you haven’t already seen it on BuzzFeed or SportsCenter or Reddit (or even if you have), it’s worth a watch:
Though Wetherill’s shot made him a YouTube sensation, he didn’t advance out of group play in men’s table tennis class 6.
The three players in his group all had a 1-1 record, and the tiebreakers didn’t work in Wetherill’s favor. Thailand’s Rungroj Thainiyom took the gold medal in the men’s class 6.
Here he is in the gold medal match against Spain’s Álvaro Valera:
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6. All British swimmer Ellie Simmonds does is win gold medals and set world records.
17-year-old swimmer Ellie Simmonds, who has dwarfism caused by achondroplasia, has become quite a celebrity across the pond.
She won two gold medals as a 13-year-old in Beijing in 2008. Simmonds got off to a great start in the 2012 games, winning gold in the 400 freestyle S6 Saturday and breaking the world record by five seconds.
Sunday British Prime Minister David Cameron was present to watch Simmonds take another gold and break another world record, this time in the 200 individual medley:
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7. American archer Matt Stutzman wins silver, without arms.
American Matt Stutzman didn’t win gold in the men’s archery, individual compound open competition, but unlike many of his opponents, Stutzman held his bow with his feet.
Stutzman, who was born without arms, took up archery as a youth. He holds the bow between his toes and uses his free foot to insert arrows. He pulls back the cord and releases the arrow with his mouth.
Stutzman lost in a tiebreaker to Finland’s Jere Forsberg in the gold medal contest. Here he is in one of his early matches against American teammate Dugie Denton:
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8. Great Britain’s Derek Derenalagi competes in the discus five years after being declared dead in Afghanistan.
Derek Derenalagi is the only athlete on this list who didn’t win a medal. He’s also the only one to have been declared dead.
In the summer of 2007, while Derenalagi was serving in Afghanistan, an improvised explosive device hit his Land Rover. Doctors nearly placed him in a body bag before Derenalagi starting showing signs of life. He spent eight days in a coma and lost both legs.
Derenalagi got into track-and-field through a British military program called Battle Back. This summer, five years after narrowly eluding death, he qualified for the Paralympics in the discuss, F57/58 classification.
Though Derenalagi failed to advance to the finals, the British crowd rewarded his perseverance with a standing ovation.
British thrower Derek Derenalagi spent eight days in a coma after an IED hit his Land Rover in Afghanistan in 2007. This summer he competed in the Paralympics. (Photo by Julian Finney/Getty Images)
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