“It gets better each time.” Four-time Paralympian on his Games Experience

October 30, 2020

In celebration of the 20th Anniversary of the Sydney 2000 Olympics and Paralympics, Populous spoke to Paralympian and OAM recipient, Rick Pendleton on his experience performing on the world stage.

Rick currently resides in Brisbane and in between his own busy training schedule for the Tokyo 2021 Games he is the Club Coach of swimming at Genesis Sports and Aquatics and Christian College.

Competitive swimming has taught Rick about the highs and lows in life, how to handle a range of emotions and what he wants to see from future generations of swimmers – while aiming to provide a benefit to people’s lives with what swimming has provided in his.

Rick Pendleton in the London 2012 Paralympic Games.

Rick credits the 2000 Olympics taking place close by to where he grew up in Sydney as a key factor in triggering his motivation to start swimming competitively as a teenager.

To achieve sporting excellence as a Paralympian means to compete under a different mindset in the same high-pressure, world-class event.

For Rick, each Games experience has been different in the setup and operations. Major improvements have been made over the past 20 years in the organization of the competitions, facility design, media coverage and public enthusiasm.

I’m no stranger to competing at the top of my physical and mental game on the world’s stage, after performing at four separate Paralympic Games, and soon to compete at Tokyo 2021. The quality and design of the Olympic facilities varies across each Games, and this can make an impact on an individual’s performance in their events.

Rick Pendleton / OAM

Each day of competition, the athlete’s journey starts with getting from the Olympic Village to the pool. For Paralympians, the ease of accessibility and wayfinding plays a major role in their mental preparation before their events.

For Rick, the journey to the swimming pool has differed in each of his Paralympic Games experiences. With some events boasting better planning and considered designs than others, looking after how each Paralympian was able to move around the precinct and the availability of facilities on ground-level or easily accessible.

“It is inspiring for all people with different ailments or challenges in their lives. Seeing people from different backgrounds compete and be their very best selves – it is uplifting what they can achieve” – Rick said.

The competitions themselves have also vastly improved over the two decades that Rick has been competing. The media coverage and mass public support during London 2012 was particularly memorable for Rick.

Speaking to Shaun Gallagher, our own Populous Architect and Principal, who was highly involved in our works on the London 2012 Games, he notes that the success of the Paralympics in London largely came down to the historical connection to the origins of the organisation. The original competition took place in England, as an organised sports competition involving injured World War II veterans.

Drawing on the history of the Paralympics, and as the birthplace of the initiative, the London 2012 Games prioritised and highly considered how the competition would take place. The Paralympics of 2012 were labelled a great success due to the exposure, emphasis and effort put into the organisation and coverage of events.

The Paralympics are a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to celebrate and revel in the human spirit.
They’re also an opportunity — with proper planning, foresight and execution —to be a catalyst for change and improvement in the lives and surroundings of those connected to a Games. Our experience and rigor help host cities create true legacy value and deliver one of the world’s biggest spectacles.

Shaun Gallagher / Architect | Principal of Populous Asia Pacific
  • "The most recent games like London, Beijing, and even Rio. The crowds were pretty phenomenal, they were always loud, you could always hear the atmosphere that they created, it was really good." - Rick said.

“The facilities in London and Beijing were very high standards, the way that they put things together, you could barely tell the difference between the Olympics and the Paralympics, as to how things were operated and organized.” – Rick said.

Rick is constantly inspired by how the Paralympics continues to improve, as do other professional swimming competitions and sports for those with disabilities or impairments.

“There is a movement happening across the world where people who have disabilities are defying odds, continuing to raise the bar and improve their performance as athletes in different sports."

Rick Pendleton / OAM

Being part of a broader movement and representing his country is an ongoing reflection of pride for Rick.

Populous aims to ensure our venues incorporate principles of universal design: the importance of accessibility and provide a vehicle for change and integration for the future.

Thank you, Rick, for sharing your perspective with Populous as a professional athlete using major sports facilities throughout the world. We wish you all the best in your training and preparation for the Tokyo Paralympic Games next year.

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