Megan and James catch up with Paralympian Grace Bowman | An Eventful Life

Megan and James catch up with Paralympian Grace Bowman

Megan and I made the journey to catch up with Gracie Bowman and Kate O’Brian (supergroom) at the London Olympic Para camp. We hadn’t seen Grace since she arrived at Kirby Park to pick up Rolly and take her to Melbourne months ago and it was a lovely reunion. She looks amazing, and I could not stop taking photos. Just like when I watch Megan riding for our country, a feeling of pride, admiration and honour just surges through my veins. Watching Grace get on that horse, walk around and connect with that animal and then start to really work her is just brilliant.

Grace had invited us down to the Equine College so we could watch the freestyle test of the four Para riders before the games. The aim was to give both horse and rider a tiny taste as to what Grenwich was going to be like. There were lots of flags, flappy things and scary signs everywhere in a small outdoor arena, which had a lot of atmosphere.

When Grace began her test, I won't say that Megan’s eyes filled with tears but she was so happy that the test she had created, on a horse she had both bred and competed, and finally a rider she had helped educate and train, had come so far. Clearly this is not all Megan’s doing as Gracie Bowman is the one putting this all together … Megan was just so proud to have been involved. The team coach mentioned that Megan had the involvement with Grace and the horse and the crowd were truly rapt that Megan could be here on this special evening.

After watching Grace’s test, I felt like a lazy shit. I believe so many of us are talented in a lot of areas, but the demands Grace and her teammates make on their bodies is incredible. Did you know Grace swims 1km in the pool and completes two hours of gym work each day? This in itself deserves a medal. One kilometre in a pool would involve a lot of splashing and head shaking if I were to partake.

Our para athletes do what they do with the same inspiration and drive that anyone would do it, representing our country at the highest level, on a stage set so big that it will be watched by millions around the world. Don’t know about you guys but this creates an excitement, a nervousness, inside me in anticipation of what the coming weeks will reveal.

I watched the tests, the horses and the riders. It looked no different to watching Megan and the rest of our Aussie team warming up: the control and connection with a horse, mistakes which were made and corrected and that smile on the face of a true lover of what they do is just the same. I felt the same way as I do when watching anyone compete or train in any sport at Olympic level … useless, wasted, in awe, impressed and inadequate because I can’t come close to doing what they do. I hope people are getting what I am trying to say, which is watching all our athletes compete in the sport they love doesn’t have anything to do with the conditions they may do it under, they do it because they are the best in the country!

After Grace’s test there was the opportunity for some questions from the crowd. All of the run of the mill questions came, which I am sure any athlete has an ‘auto answer’ for. However one question which always pops up is ‘what has been the most memorable moment in your sporting career?’ - Grace snatched up the microphone to answer (yes, she snatched it) clearly wanting to get her answer in first and she said, “For me it would have to be when I was here at Hartpury in 2006. I was 16 years old warming up my horse. I rode past one of the mirrors in the dressage arena and caught a glimpse of the Australian flag on my shirt and on my horse’s saddlecloth, that moment will stick in my memory for the rest of my life.”  What a memory I thought, what a moment to have as your memory.

We hung around and caught up with ‘team Bowman’ (Grace, Kate and Rolly), talked about politics and possible remedies for world peace (possibly how good all the free stuff is, cute boys on the campus and several other ‘off the record’ style stories) before we realised we were not alone. Granted we were standing several metres from the bar and food stand, but we noticed there was a group of 20-30 people all waiting for their chance to come and meet Grace, Rolly and Kate. It was amazing, all I could do was smile at Megan. Everyone was just so happy to be there to meet our superstar Olympian and her trusty steed. It was a great feeling to be surrounded by all these fans, and it was a nice change to be surrounded by fans at an Olympic event instead of teammates and vets looking at a horse (bloody Floyd!) - what a great night.

We said our goodbyes and did all the things good friends do when leaving a BBQ. We lied about why we had to leave, got In the car, drove off feeling no guilt, then drove directly to a service station and bought Magnum ice creams for the ride home and chocolate to eat whilst watching a movie at home!

Grace, we have no doubt you will be bringing home something heavier in your hand luggage in a few weeks and we can’t wait to celebrate it with you. Enjoy every moment of being at Greenwich, as it is so amazing to be there. Your are the best at what you do and I am sure you know already, but you have all of your country behind you all the way - go get the gold.

Good luck from
 Megan, James, Floydy and a few million other residents of this amazing country.

Article and photos: James Deacon