By Bill Petzold
CARO — Scot Severn says the souvenirs he brought back from London weren’t much to write home about.
But he got the one that counts.
Severn broke through to win his first bronze medal in shot put at the 2012 Paralympic Games, held in the Olympic venues in London, England. He was scheduled to appear with Team USA on Friday at the White House in Washington, D.C., for a reception with the Olympic and Paralympic teams.
It was Severn’s second trip to the White House (he also was invited after the 2008 Beijing games), but his first as a medalist.
“I don’t know if I’ll personally meet (President Obama) or not,” Severn said. “When I went there before, I didn’t personally meet (George W.) Bush. I sat about 12 feet from him when he did a speech. Basically they put up scaffolding in front of the White House and everything, and the whole Olympic and Paralympic team lines up in front of the White House, in front of the press and everything, and the president does a little speech.”
For Severn, the medal is the end result of years of hard work. But Severn’s drive to compete will allow him to enjoy this honor for a moment before he turns his attention to the International Paralympic Committee Athletics World Championships next July in Lyon, France.
“It’s one more accomplishment,” Severn said. “It’s a lot of pressure taken off. I don’t have to feel like I have to go all out and work harder than what I have been. Whatever I’ve been doing is working now. It’s still hard work, but I don’t have to worry so much about the pressure of performing when I know I can do it now. I know my discus and javelin needs some work … but that’s not my specialty anyway.”
Severn finished eighth in javelin and ninth in discus, but he had the bronze in shot put wrapped up early with a throw of 8.26 meters.
“At that time, there was no pressure really, because I knew right before I got up to throw the guy that was right below me didn’t beat my throw, so I already knew I was guaranteed bronze,” he said. “I could go up and try to throw a world record and get silver or gold.
“(The best part of the trip was) putting on that uniform the next day to go get my medal. Those jackets look kind of plain on TV, those plain gray jackets, but it’s something special when you get to put that on and wheel through the village and go get breakfast on your way to get your medal.”
Back in Caro, Severn’s wife Brenda was tracking his progress on the internet. She was watching when Scot won the bronze.
“I was sitting there at the computer and the kids were in their rooms and I yelled out, ‘Nicole! I think dad got a bronze!’ ” Brenda said. “She comes around and says ‘What’s the matter?’ I said, ‘I think dad just won a bronze medal.’ And she looked at me funny and said, ‘Are you OK?’ because I had tears in my eyes. … I said, ‘Sorry Nicole, I couldn’t hear what they said. I don’t if he won a bronze or not, I was yelling too loud.’ ”
Severn’s children, daughter Nicole and sons Colton and Kyle, were excited to lay their eyes on dad’s medal when he got home.
“When I was getting out of the van in the garage, they just wanted to see the medal,” Scot said. “It used to be they wanted to see what I brought home for them, souvenirs and stuff, and now they’re kind of a little more used to that.”
Severn’s medal performance came at the first major event following the loss of close friend and teammate Jeff Coupie of Essexville. Coupie was a well-known advocate of wheelchair sports, and Scot said his presence was felt in London.
“One of the harder things over there is Coupie was known by so many people that I just kept getting reminded of him constantly while I was there,” Severn said. “Even my head coach for track and field knows him, the rugby players, every one of them was saying something to me about him. I just tried to put it out of my mind, but I couldn’t.”
While Severn says he plans to continue with sports more as a competitor at this point and leave the organizational details to somebody else, he plans to continue Coupie’s mission of getting the word out about adaptive and wheelchair sports to people with disabilities.
British media covered the Paralympic Games every day. But in the United States, network NBC provided sparse coverage, airing a total of 5 1/2 hours of footage, including four one-hour highlight shows on the relatively obscure NBC Sports Network cable channel. A 90-minute recap show is slated to air at 2 p.m. Sunday on WEYI TV-25.
“That was about the most disappointing thing, having that TV coverage … buried on a channel that not too many people even know about, and then watching the shows — I thought NBC was an American network, but they’re not. (Controversial sprinter) Oscar Pistorius, every one of his events were covered from start to finish and then some. The only thing I saw about any of the U.S. throwers, or any throwers in the world at all, was our world record holder, Jeremy Campbell is a single amputee, he holds the world record in discus. They showed him for about two or three seconds at the beginning of one of the shows.”
Bill Petzold is a staff writer for the Tuscola County Advertiser. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.