The events of Tokyo 2020 are far from over because the Paralympic Games are starting in less than a week. Bigger and better than ever before, Team GB is once again ready to take over the world of sport.
All eyes will be on the Japanese capital again on the 24th of August and for the following 12 days as the very best para-athletes compete for gold. Team GB athletes will be at the starting line in several different sports, including swimming, wheelchair racing, cycling and much more.
— C4 Paralympics (@C4Paralympics) August 9, 2021
The Paralympics promises to be a spectacular sporting event with more coverage than ever before. It represents unity, diversity, acceptance, and of course family. The latter is extremely important to Linda McCowan, who is travelling to Tokyo as a ramp assistant for one of her Paralympian sons. Jamie and Scott McCowan are both talented boccia players, which allows their mother and their father, Gary, to participate in the sporting events as well.
Boccia (bɒtʃə/ BOTCH-ə) is a petanque-like sport, played with red and blue balls and the goal is to get your colour closest to the white ball, or jack. It is a unique Paralympian game and is played by individuals, pairs or teams of three.
Jamie and Scott have muscular dystrophy and are wheelchair users. They were both introduced to the game more than 15 years ago through a ‘come and try’ event. Since then, not only them but their parents have fallen in love with the incredible sport.
Linda became her youngest son, Jamie’s assistant when he could still throw a ball. “This role was to get them ready, get them to the event and to the court. Then, I could leave him there,” Linda explains. As Jamie’s condition advanced, he started using a ramp to play the game. Linda, supportive as ever has stepped into the role of a ramp assistant.
“I don’t think I ever asked to be his assistant, I just ended up being his assistant,” she laughs. “Obviously, I wanted to help him to play this sport, but we really didn’t think we would ever be where we are now.”
And ‘here’ is the 2020 Tokyo Paralympics, where the whole family has travelled as part of Team GB. This not a new experience, the McCowans participated in Rio 2016 and have golden hopes for this year’s Games. “We didn’t think we would get picked to go this year, but then we got the call! All four of us will be on the pitch at the same time, which is very unique.
And then in the individuals, Scott and Jamie might even meet each other, this is not something that we are used to but I am immensely proud,” says Linda. Then, she quickly corrects herself, playing at the Paralympic stage is not something they are used to. Scott and Jamie play each other in competition often.
Linda’s dedication and love both as the mother and ramp assistant of two world-class Paralympians is inspiring. She trains, transports, supports and assists Jamie and Scott through success and loss. “Obviously, I am the mom until we are on the court, then Jamie becomes the boss,” Linda chuckles. “I just have to do what he asks me to do because they are not allowed to speak or look.
I have to really focus because we are timed and it can get down to seconds. I have to be very quick and try not to make mistakes, for example, you play in a box and have to keep all our equipment in a box, otherwise, it’s a violation.”
Last year posed a unique challenge for the family as they were forced to shield together for 9 months due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Linda says it was a difficult time, but it brought them closer together. “We had to be very structured and we just had to start playing games in the living room, which we had turned into a sports hall. We played a total of 60 games, I think.” Instead of having more downtime, Linda was busier than ever before, even learning physio to care for her superstar sons as best as she could.
The hours of training, learning and re-organising the house may be over, but the competition is just about to start. Follow the McCowans’ Paralympic journey this summer and let’s cheer for them to end up with medals around their necks!