The 2018 Winter Olympics have wrapped up and it has certainly been quite an exciting journey for all of us who love sports and the ideals of this global quadrennial celebration of world unity represented by the Olympic Games. The good news is that the 2020 Summer Games in Tokyo are only two years away.

The pageantry of the Opening and Closing Ceremonies with its parade of athletes from so many nations is what makes the Olympic Games so impactful; the excitement and thrill we see from athletes who have worked so hard just for a chance to compete while representing their communities and countries. As always, there were some AWESOME gold medal performances this year from athletes all over the world who came together in PyeongChang for this celebration of unity through sport.

But this was the first Winter Olympics with openly gay and lesbian athletes being selected to represent their countries. Figure skaters Adam Rippon and Eric Bradford slayed it on the ice, freestyle skier Gus Kenworthy ripped it up on the slopes and hopefully you were able to catch a glimpse of speed skater Brittany Bowe as she went flying by at breakneck speed. And who didn’t love Johnny Weir and Tara Lipinski’s “Hunger Games” commentary for the Olympic Figure Skating competition.

While the 2018 Winter Olympics are now part of Olympic history, the 2018 Winter Paralympic Games are set to begin. The Paralympics are every bit as exciting as the Olympics; just like the Olympians, these Paralympian athletes have been training and working their whole lives for the chance to shine on the world stage. This is their time to show the world just how capable they really are.

The Paralympics are important because it’s about more than simple equality in sports; it’s about showing the world the very best of a human being’s capacity to adapt under extraordinary circumstances. Rather than focusing on surviving and recovering, it’s about showcasing athletes who are thriving and succeeding. It is inspirational to watch Paralympians compete because beyond the sport itself, you are really seeing the true potential and capability of the human race in action!

Another important outcome of the Paralympic Games is that they lead the way to increased accessibility in their host cities. Designing venues and infrastructure that are more accessible for all athletes and visitors creates more opportunities for people who are inspired by their favorite athletes to get involved in sports. The 2018 Winter Paralympics take place March 8th-18th so tune in because I’m sure it’s going to be awesome!

I’m also looking forward to the Gay Games in Paris where thousands of recreational athletes from all walks of life will be coming together. Having competed in other Gay Games, I will also be competing in Paris. I’m already looking forward to again experiencing the diversity and energy the world’s gay and straight athletes will bring to this year’s event. I know a lot of people are training hard and with only months to go, the event is shaping up to be a great time. Are you training? Because I sure am!

By Dirk Smith