Paralympic bronze medallist Rebecca Dubber remembers a legend’s big feet, being in awe of Sophie Pascoe’s passion and swimming before a crowd of 17,000, in the Memory Games Q&A with LockerRoom writers who’ve been to a Games.
What’s your first Olympic or Paralympic memory?
I think my first memory of an Olympics was the 2004 Games in Athens. I was attending swimming lessons at the time, and my instructor happened to ask me who my favourite swimmer at the Games was. We watched some of the swimming at home, and I remember my dad talking about Ian Thorpe and his big feet. He was the only swimmer I knew by name, so I said Ian Thorpe – “because of his big feet”. To this day, my dad still likes to remind me about it.
At the time, I don’t remember the Paralympic Games being very widely talked about or shown on TV. Later that year, I attended a competition in Whakatane where I met Paralympians who’d been to the Athens Games. I was in awe of how cool they were and how fast they could swim. Looking back, this may have been one of the moments that cemented my drive to become a Paralympian.
The Beijing Games were the first Paralympics I remember seeing. It was a bittersweet time after I missed out on qualifying. But watching my teammates compete filled me with immense pride and helped fuel my fire competing in London four years later.
What are your favourite Games moments – first watching from afar and then being there?
My favourite moment watching from afar was seeing my teammate Cam Leslie win gold at the Beijing Paralympics in 2008. Cam was someone I really looked up to and tried to learn from when I got the opportunity to train and compete with him. He even inspired me to study communications at university. I remember either staying up super late or getting up super early to watch him on TV, and being so excited when he touched the wall to claim gold. It was a truly inspiring moment.
At my first Paralympic Games I remember walking out onto the pool deck for my first final. Never in a million years did I imagine walking out in front of 17,000 people to swim. It was daunting and exhilarating knowing my family was somewhere in the sea of people clapping and cheering.
I saved the best for last – my favourite moment of all was at the Rio 2016 Games, when I won my bronze in the women’s s7 100m backstroke. I experienced the heartbreak in London of coming fifth in the same event.
I didn’t have the greatest build-up to Rio, which left my confidence going into the competition a little shaky. Heading into that final, I felt sick to my stomach and heavy, like I had the weight of not just my own, but everyone else’s expectations on top of me. Somewhere in the water I managed to leave all that behind and claim my place on the podium. It was my proudest sporting moment and one I was lucky to share with my family and support team.
What’s your dream scenario to play out in Tokyo?
This is a hard one; I feel torn when talking about the Tokyo Olympics and Paralympics. I understand and support the perspective of the Japanese public, who desperately want the Games to be cancelled for their safety and everyone else attending.
But then, I also understand and support the perspective of the athletes, who’ve put their lives on hold and continued to train to the best of their ability for this final moment in a massive five-year campaign.
I’ve been following the developments of the Games closely, reading through every new addition of the playbooks to see how the cogs will work to ensure everything runs as smoothly as possible with the least amount of risk. I’m curious to understand what life will be like for the athletes attending.
So my dream scenario for Tokyo has two sides. One is that every athlete gets to experience the Olympic/Paralympic Games they’ve trained for, to give them the satisfaction of knowing they made it and came out the other side. The other is that hosting the Games doesn’t cause any adverse issues for the Japanese public and they have the opportunity to embrace and enjoy the Games.
It will be such an incredible thing to see the Games come to life during these next couple of months. It would be amazing to see it become a beacon of hope and unity for all that the Games is meant to signify around the world.
What event are you most looking forward to?
The event I’ll definitely have my eye on will be the women’s s7 100m backstroke at the Paralympics. This was the event I won bronze in, so it’ll be interesting to see how the field has changed and developed since then.
I’ll also be keeping an eye on all my former Paralympic teammates across all sports to see them smash the competition and bring home some well-deserved medals.
It will be incredible to watch Sophie Pascoe swim in her fourth Paralympic Games; as a former teammate and role model, I was always in awe of Soph’s passion and determination to be the best she could be. It was incredible to witness that up close for so many years, and I’m looking forward to watching her dominate the field again, although this time from a little further away.
In the Olympic line-up, I’ll be watching and cheering on our swimming team, especially Lewis Clareburt, who’s had a phenomenal few years rising up the world rankings and has a great chance of producing incredible results.
The Olympics and Paralympics are such a special time, and these Games will definitely be ones for the history books.