No. 50: Evers wins 1st gold in intellectually impaired class

The No. 50 moment in Paralympic sport of 2012 is when Dutch swimmer Marc Evers became the first athlete with an intellectual impairment to win Paralympic gold since Sydney 2000. 12 Nov 2012
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A picture of man ready for the start of his swimming race

Marc Evers gets set for the men's 100m backstroke S14 at the London 2012 Paralympic Games.

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By IPC

“What is so nice was that everyone was there: my physiotherapist Olivia with her mother, my trainer Wim and his wife, my dietician with the family, and of course my family. Super!”

Editor’s Note: For the final 50 days of the 2012, the IPC will count down the year’s top moments in Paralympic sport, culminating with the year’s best moment on 31 December.

The 50 moments were selected by nominations from National Paralympic Committees and International Federations and are based on sport performance, emotional moments, media attraction and athletes’ personal stories.

The IPC would also like to call on the public to submit their own nominations for what they believe was the top Paralympic moment of 2012. They can do so by emailing [email protected], or by leaving a comment on www.Facebook.com/ParalympicGames or sending a tweet to @Paralympic.

When Dutch swimmer Marc Evers saw the scoreboard at the London Aquatics Centre light up with his world-record time of 1:01.85 in the 100m backstroke S14 on 31 August, he did not realise he was the first athlete with an intellectual impairment to win gold at the Paralympics since Sydney 2000.

The morning of the race, the 21-year-old did not swim the best heats, but did well enough to calm his nerves.

Evers, who has autism, knew that evening’s final was going to be his best chance of winning gold.

Before the race, coach Mark Faber gave the swimmer a schedule, as Evers works best when he has a clear structure to what he’s doing.

It worked, as everything came together that evening.

When he saw he won, he jumped up onto the lane divider and flexed his biceps.

“As a person, he’s soft and kind, but in the water he’s strong and killing,” Faber said.

A few minutes after the race, the athlete received a call from Dutch Prime Minister Marc Rutte congratulating him on his win, as well as a telegram from the Dutch Queen Beatrix.

“I was a little late on my bed, but I was so packed with adrenaline that I could not sleep,” Evers wrote in his blog.

“What is so nice was that everyone was there: my physiotherapist Olivia with her mother, my trainer Wim and his wife, my dietician with the family, and of course my family. Super!”

Evers’ impairment group was one of 10 recognised by the Paralympic Movement at London 2012. It was not included on the Games programme at Athens 2004 and Beijing 2008 after a number of athletes at the Sydney 2000 Games competed within the class despite not having an intellectual impairment.

A few days after winning gold, Evers made it to the 200m freestyle S14 finals, a race he has always found difficult to master. After a slow start, he finished fourth.

“The worst place to finish, but that's part of sport,” he said.

“The 200m freestyle is a distance that is not me, because I find it incredibly difficult … Too long to be a sprint, too short to be a long-distance race.”

The final race – 100m breaststroke – was his “bonus number.” He knew he could be one of the top three swimmers, but that would be the icing on the cake. He finished with a bronze in 1:08.43.

“That was a really good race,” said his coach. “It was close and it was his best time ever. He improved more than a second on his best.”

Since returning home with a gold and a bronze medal, Evers has been overwhelmed by the attention, even having a lane named after him at his local swimming pool.

“I did not know my gold medal could have had such an impact,” he said. “I am enjoying every moment. On the street I get recognised. If I am somewhere, everyone congratulates me, which is all great.

“2012 was a really great year for me. All the pain during workouts, al the annoyances, all the hard work of the last years, it’s all been worth it. I enjoyed the Games, the perfect organisation, the fans, the tributes, everything.”

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