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U.S. Paralympian Makes Fifth Showing At The Games


At the opening ceremonies tonight in London for the 2012 Paralympics Games, Scott Danberg marched into the stadium bearing the flag for Team USA. This year's Paralympics are the biggest ever, featuring some 4,300 disabled athletes from all over the world. And they're the fifth Paralympics for Scott Danberg. He won a silver medal in javelin in Seoul, way back in 1988. He competed in later games in power lifting and shot put. And now, at age 50, in London...

SCOTT DANBERG: This year, this Paralympics Games of 2012, I'm throwing the discus and I compete in the Dwarf Class, which is F40. The F stands for field and 40 is the numerical number that they've given for the Dwarf category.

BLOCK: Scott, this is your fifth Paralympics. Do you think you'll feel different for going in as the flag bearer for Team USA, for the opening ceremonies?

DANBERG: Oh, I think it's absolutely outstanding. You know, being nominated and just being recognized by the U.S. team as a whole. It was one thing when just track and field said, Scott, we want to put your name forward. And that was a special day just in itself. And then I got the call and I, you know, I hardly gotten any sleep that night. It was almost just like I won a gold medal.


BLOCK: Why do you think they chose you?

DANBERG: It's not really just longevity, although, I believe that has quite a bit to do with it. I believe it's the way I handled myself around the team. It's the maturity I bring to the team. It's the confidence I think that they see that I have in myself and my athletic abilities, and what I share with them. I'm the shortest guy on the team, but they really look up to me. And that was really evident when they called my name.

BLOCK: What goes through your mind before you're about to compete? Just as you're getting ready to throw the discus, what are you thinking?

DANBERG: You're thinking of just that one thing in your technical approach that you need to nail. And for me it's really a cue as I come through the rotation that I got to keep my head back, and I got to hit a mark in the back of the sector. Because if your head stays back, your hips get out in front of your upper body, and that's what you need to do in throwing.

BLOCK: Is the physical process of throwing the discus any different for you as a dwarf than it would be for any other discus thrower who might have competed in the Olympics?

DANBERG: Well, in my class, because it's an ambulatory class, no, you're going to see the same movement patterns in the way I throw, as you would in the Olympic athletes. You know, we're little powerhouses in just a whole - you know, a smaller body.

BLOCK: You know, Scott, we talked on the program yesterday about the fact that this Paralympics is, I think, the biggest ever - 4,300 athletes, 166 countries, more than 20 sports. What do you think about the level of attention back home here? I know they're broadcasting a lot of coverage in Britain, but you're going to have to work really hard to find it on TV here in the States. I think they're covering - doing highlights for five and half hours and a bunch of that is after the Paralympics are over.

DANBERG: Yeah, it's come a long way and I'm coming from obviously seeing what it was like back in 1988, where we didn't have any of those five hours or the live streaming. So, yes, maybe the TV coverage is not parallel as of yet to the Olympic Games. I believe it will get there. But these games, versus even in Beijing is, it's getting better and better and it will continue to do so. So I only see improvement there.

BLOCK: You've done this many times before. What's that feeling like when you walk into the stadium for opening ceremonies and see those thousands of athletes, with all those different disabilities, from all over the world?

DANBERG: Yeah, what it is when you see all the athletes - there's a real connection here on the Paralympic level, specifically, with your own discipline. I'm seeing dwarfs from all over the globe. And we may make eye contact, and we're immediately the first ones to approach each other and trade pins. And so there's a real, real bond. But all individuals with disability have had some struggle, some obstacles to overcome. And we understand that. Whatever it may be, there's a connection amongst Paralympians, and we're very, very thankful to be here and to be able to share this experience with one another.

BLOCK: Well, Scott Danberg, it's great to talk to you. Good luck.

DANBERG: Well, thank you very much.

BLOCK: That's U.S. Paralympian and flag-bearer, Scott Danberg, who spoke with me earlier today from just outside the athlete's village in London. Scott competes in discus next Tuesday. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.