Wheelchair Rugby's final day at the Basketball Arena was the grand hurrah for this most striking structure of the London 2012 Games. Referred to in some quarters as 'The Mattress' owing to its quilted outer structure, the Arena's greatest feat is that it is a temporary building. As the Legacy work begins soon, so the entire complex will be dismantled from top to bottom - that was always the plan. It is unknown where some or all of it will end up (rumours range from Rio to Milton Keynes) and so if Sunday was to be the last time action would be seen amongst the these four cavernous walls it had to be of a fitting standard.
Luckily, the sport known as 'murderball' did not disappoint.
Starting late in the schedule, Wheelchair Rugby has struggled to stay out of the spotlight such has been the interest. In the purest sense it is not quite rugby, save its immense physicality. It is more an evolution of Wheelchair Basketball which calls in elements from other sports (be it Athletics, or American Football) to make for unmissable contests. The aim is simple: teams of four rush with a ball (round, not oval) and look to beat their opponents by crossing the try line. The field of play is a touch smaller than a basketball court so the action is fast, scores are frequent and turnovers are everything.
The final day pitted the USA against Japan for the bronze medal. It was a more measured game, subdued almost. The Americans were the defending champions from Beijing and still looked to be shell-shocked to be playing for third. They had more about them, closing their opponents down with good defence and exposing errors made. The individual star of the match over was Japan's number seven, Ikezaki Daisuke. Compared to the muscles, tattoos and shaved heads of many players, 'Ike' looked the odd man out - but he dazzled in all four quarters with some brilliant runs and unlikely scores to keep his countrymen in the hunt. Unfortunately for him, they just couldn't match the the USA's industry who won the game 53-43.
So far, so fun. But as a first-timer to watching the sport live, I'd not seen much of the ferocious physicality predicted. The gold medal game would alter that.
Australia faced Canada for the spoils. Both teams were amongst the medals in 2008 (silver and bronze respectively) but the men in green and gold were fancied to go one better, mainly thanks to the sport's top player, Ryley Batt. And the New South Wales native dominated early proceedings as the Canadians struggled to handle his pace and transitional play. Moreover, he played with the aggression many expect from the sport. Within minutes he become this pantomime villain (unless you were an Aussie fan) that you loved to hate. He dominated the game and enabled his teammates to soar as they carved up their opponents.
The smashes between chairs were harder, the struggle to get the ball as those in possession were forced into two-on-ones made for teeth-gritting viewing. At times, the young boy in me fed on a diet of WWE wrestling just wanted to shout and scream at the Canadians to smash Batt - but they couldn't. Save one choice moment where he was toppled at the goal line by teenager Zak Madell, the 'Battman's' Australians had one hand on the gold medal at the halfway mark.
And so it continued. Whilst he was rested for phases and the Canadians found a little traction, the margin between the sides widened to as far as fifteen goals. And, just when the men in red were on a little roll, so Batt come off the sidelines to correct matters and restore suitable dominance.
In the end, the Australia won at a canter 66-51. Batt, playing in his third Paralympic Games, got the gold he so desperately craved, and at 23 looks certain to dominate his sport through to Rio and beyond.
The crowd cheered these fantastic gladiators as the medals were dished out. And so the curtain fell on what has been spiritual home of basketball for both the Olympic and Paralympic Games, along with Handball and now Wheelchair Rugby. The final matches here were a fitting send-off. The sport absolutely smashes the preconceptions of disability - you would not want to meet any of these guys in an alleyway - and treads such a fine line of sportsmanship that it rightly deserved the spotlight it received.
Best paralympic sport? Quite possibly. Though if Ryley Batt asks, tell him I said yes.