Nate Williams: The start of a new path

After not making the British wheelchair basketball team, Nate was determined to still make London 2012 05 Sep 2013
A picture of a blind person shooting the ball in a football match

Jeferson da Conceicao Goncalves shooting at goal in the football 5-a-side gold medal match against France during the London 2012 Paralympic Games.

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By Nate Williams

In 2005, as a 14 year-old with cerebral palsy from Merseyside, England I watched on as IOC President Jacques Rogge announced that the 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games were heading to London.

That year I had just completed my second full season as a wheelchair basketball player. Filled with excitement, I recall shouting to my mum that London had won the Games and that I would try desperately hard to get there as a Paralympian.

Despite years of training and involvement in a team that became double national champions, when I reached the age limit of 19 for the North West Regional Squad, the call from British Wheelchair Basketball to invite me to the national team training camp never came. Honestly, I was not good enough compared to the talent that was around.

At first, I felt like a failure because my dreams of becoming a Paralympian had not come true.

However, reading about some of the most famous people in the history of this world helped me realise that failure can be a gateway to success if you don’t let failure get to you.

This was a motivational turning point and I wanted to do my best to promote the Paralympic Movement through my new occupation of sports journalism at Huddersfield University.

After two years of dedicated journalistic work interviewing good friends from wheelchair basketball including the charming Hannah Cockroft, my tutor Chris Irvine put me in touch with Craig Spence, the International Paralympic Committee's Director of Communications.

Craig was looking to recruit extra media help for the London 2012 Paralympic Games and I jumped at the chance to join him and his team! But first, I had to take part in my own test event - writing a report about London Prepares - to see if I was good enough to be one of the IPC's Paralympic reporters.

The day after the London 2012 test event, I received the best phone call ever!

The invitation to join the IPC in London was the best two minutes of my life to date. I bounced around my room punching the air screaming, “yes” repeatedly, which startled my housemates a bit.

This was only the beginning. I arrived in the Olympic Park and the Games Makers, with their wonderful cheer and smiles, made me feel as important as an athlete. For most people, they are the reason the Games went so well and were labelled as the “Best Games Ever!”

It got busier as we moved toward the Opening Ceremony and on that day, I was honoured to shake hands with the man who was the driving force behind London 2012- Lord Sebastian Coe.

I offered my hand and said: “all the best for tonight,” as he went into the IPC’s office to go over his speech with Craig.

The ceremony itself was fantastic. Seeing my best friend from back home- Billy Bridge - carry the Paralympic flag as a member of the Great Britain under-23 basketball team was a proud moment.

My responsibilities over the next few days were covering both of the football tournaments from the fantastic pink and blue Riverbank Arena. The skill of the blind 5-a-side footballers was amazing and so were the crowd! I had never been to a football match where the audience was completely silent as a customary rule for the entire game!

The routine of covering both football tournaments was quite comfortable until I was handed another challenging once-in-a-lifetime opportunity - the chance to commentate on wheelchair basketball at the Broadcast Centre for ParalympicSport.TV.

Getting to commentate on some of the best players in the world from my chosen sport to a worldwide audience was the next best thing to playing against them in my view.

After hilariously being called “Captain Obvious” by the Twitter community due to a clear lack of experience as a broadcaster, I gradually improved with each game and eventually, I was selected to commentate on the finals. This was truly valuable experience that will never be forgotten and I hope to do again soon.

The final day of the Games was certainly emotional. I was almost full of tears when my long time friend from the Netherlands 7-a-side football team, Iljas Visker, gave me his shirt in the mixed zone after he scored his first ever Paralympic hat-trick against Argentina.

That shirt is now framed and hanging on a wall in the same room where I realised that greatness was coming to London eight years ago. Thank you to everyone at the International Paralympic Committee for the experience of a lifetime. See you in Sochi!

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