U.S. Paralympic gold medalists Nick Taylor (left) and David Wagner will help Team USA celebrate "A Capitol Fourth" in Washington D.C.
© Tom Shaw
By Nick Taylor, special to USTA.com
Since I was a little kid I had dreamt of being, at that time, an Olympian, not knowing about the Paralympics back then. In Athens I got to realize that dream for the first time and was then fortunate enough to win a gold medal along the way.
When people ask me about my favorite moments from Athens and Beijing, two moments stick out: winning gold with David Wagner and rolling into opening ceremonies. I was sure tonight’s Opening Ceremonies would provide a third extremely memorable experience.
Rolling into a stadium, hearing the announcer say "The United States of America" and knowing you are there representing your country is a surreal experience, one that I cannot possibly put into words. The grandeur and magnitude of the Opening Ceremonies is awe-inspiring and represents what is a truly global games. The entertainment during the show was phenomenal. The feats and talents of the high flying acrobats were impressive, but even more so once I figured out that most all of them had some type of disability. For instance, a retired wheelchair tennis player was flown across the field while sitting in a tennis chair, supported by wires. At the same moment, other sportsmen were flying in from other directions making for a breathtaking spectacle. Ian McKellen (of Gandoff fame and a wonderful actor) and Steven Hawking (a brilliant mind and scientist) highlighted the show. It will always be etched in my memory.
The torch lighting ceremony was hot! Seriously, when the performer cascaded down with the torch from hundreds of feet in the air, he landed right in front of me. The torch was then handed off to a blind athlete who handed it off to Margaret Maughan, the first British Gold Medalist in Archery who lit the cauldron. The evening concluded with a fireworks display that impressed the packed stadium.
We arrived at the Village around 1:00 AM. I had the novel idea of going to get something to eat, and I quickly discovered that all 4,200 other athletes had the same brilliant idea! I was still able to get food fairly quickly and then headed to bed with the all-important draw ceremony on my mind which was to be held at noon the next day.