Sir Philip Craven speaks less like an overarching president of an international sports organization and more like the proud patriarch of one large global family. That's what the Paralympics mean to this charismatic president. And when that feeling of family is combined with unparalleled performance on the field of play, well... it's easy to see why he's so passionate about his job.
"That's what keeps charging up these batteries that really should be absolutely flat out," said Sir Philip this week.
But calling him passionate about the Paralympics belies the deep emotion that he feels as president of the International Paralympic Committee (IPC), responsible for these Games.
He's a five time Paralympian himself in wheelchair basketball (1972-1988) and swimming (1972), among his many accomplishments in competition. He's been president of the IPC for eight and a half years, a time of great positive change in the movement. At these Games, Whistler is his home base and he says the town has risen to the challenge, delivering on all its promises and providing a great atmosphere.
On his way to Vancouver Tuesday to watch two sledge hockey games, Sir Philip took time to speak to the Pique about his experience to date at the 2010 Paralympics. This is an excerpt of that conversation.
Pique: What has your time been like so far in Whistler?
SPC: Up in Whistler there's a tremendous atmosphere. We were at the second day of the slalom competition yesterday (Monday)... and Lauren Woolstencroft won the first of what might be several medals in the women's events. And then the men just came down and absolutely attacked the course. It was absolutely breathtaking. And when the New Zealand racer, Adam Hall, who won the gold, fell and then got up and then absolutely collapsed at the finish, he had just given his all and taken the gold medal, it was astonishing. You know, for me, I'm a Paralympian but these people just absolutely amaze me.
Pique: I've read that you're particularly amazed by the para-alpine skiers.
SPC: No, no. All the athletes do (amaze me). But I can see myself maybe being, probably not a very good one, a cross-country skier. I could see myself being a curler. I'm a wheelchair basketball player so I have an affinity with the sledge hockey. But coming down those slopes, there's no way you'd even get me near that. It's just mind-blowing.
Pique: Since you were a Paralympian more than 20 years ago, how have the Paralympics changed?