“Thanks for the warmup.” Those words were on a billboard advertising the Paralympics right after the Olympics finished. When I was watching that trailer clip, I was considerably surprised. But there were many more surprises yet to come.
I got to watch Rising Phoenix a few days after it was released on Netflix from the comfort of my home. I am not usually very interested in sports documentaries—I typically go for rom-coms or musicals—but this one caught my eye because of the movie cover picture, which was peaceful but engaging. It really pulled me in. I didn’t expect anything much, honestly. But by the end, I was very moved.
This year has been tough. It’s an exciting time in my life. I’m applying to high schools in another country next year, and they require you to write essays, take standardized tests, and attend interviews, while also making the time to join information sessions about various topics, like The Arts, Equity and Inclusion, and Girls’ Athletics. I feel excited to meet new people and jump into this new chapter, but on the other hand, I don’t know if I’ll get in. The number of tasks are overwhelming. However, I do know that it all depends on my mindset.
Something that surprised me about the Paralympic athletes and their mindset towards their situation is that they didn’t let their disability or people who mocked them get in their way: they never gave up. Take Ellie Cole, an Australian swimmer, for example. On the first day of high school, a boy made fun of the fact that she only had one leg—the other of which she lost to cancer—and called her “pirate.” After promptly throwing her prosthetic leg at the bully, she was never bullied again.
All of these athletes have different stories to tell and come from different backgrounds, but the common theme that unites their story was that in 2016, the money that was set aside for the Paralympics was used for the Olympics, and the Organizing Committee wasn’t sure if they could host the Paralympics. This challenge really impacted them, and they felt a sense of outrage and despair. Through the screen, I really felt it too. When Beatrice Vio, a wheelchair fencer from Italy, received the news that the Paralympics were going to happen after all, she ended the call by calmly saying: “Okay, thank you, I’m going to do a workout now.” In reality, she hung up and just kept sobbing. You could really see the motivation, the fire, the Paralympic spirit of the athletes through the sport and that just gives me hope for the world and our large community.
After seeing athletes on screen become Paralympic champions, I reminded myself that I could do it. I remembered the times when I was little and I couldn’t sleep, so I would read Jane Eyre, Harry Potter, and The Hobbit under the covers (I tried to read War and Peace but I just couldn’t) even after mom turned the lights out. Even though not being able to sleep was stressful, it opened a new door for me and I discovered that I liked reading! I remembered when I changed schools when I was twelve, and it was really hard to understand the culture because they had many more extracurricular activities and sports. I remembered how during our swim test, we had to put on clothes on top of our swimsuits because we needed to understand what to do in case we were ever on a boat or ship and there was a fire. I missed the memo that I had to wear leggings instead of shorts (I also wore a white jacket), and the clothes kept dragging me down during the swim test. I was devastated and I really wanted to give up, but I persisted, I worked hard, and I made it to the end of the test, like Bilbo and Harry and Jane. The extra clothes gave me an extra workout!
I’m inspired by how books and movies can move you and change you. Rising Phoenix pushed me to continue my hard work and lit the fire of inspiration, and made me remember what I could do, while also helping me maintain my faith in our world and our large community. Sophie H. Janicke from the Greater Good Magazine wrote in 2016 that “Research on inspiring media…may have the potential to shift our perception of the world.” For me, I’m living proof of that. This documentary showed me that my perception is powerful, and the media I watch or read has the power to change my perception of the world and myself.
In conclusion, watch Rising Phoenix: you won’t regret it.