Why Paralympics are So Important
Updated: Mar 14
The Paralympics have finally begun on August 24, 2021. This is an event similar to the Olympics but it differs in the sense that it is a collection of sports dedicated to people with some kind of disability, such as impaired muscle power, missing limb, hypertonia, and a variety of others. Since they do have a competitive disadvantage, there is a classification process to determine the eligibility of each member. Unfortunately, these sports don't get nearly as much attention as the actual Olympics. In Rio 2016, for example, there were nearly 30 million viewers, compared to the 2 million of the Paralympics that same year. But why exactly does this matter?
Paralympian or Olympian?
Para-swimmer, Prue Watt, has said that she is a Paralympian, not an olympian. She says that being a Paralympian means overcoming a physical or mental challenge in a unique way, in order to achieve a certain goal - and that means a whole lot to her.
But being able to represent your country and compete at the highest and most prestigious event in sport being disabled, highly promotes a more inclusive society towards people with these disabilities.
However, since there is less coverage and attention drawn into the Paralympics, there are also fewer resources, support, interest, and sponsorships, doubling the already hard path that these athletes have to go through.
Is there really a need for Para?
Perhaps one of the reasons why there isn’t a larger number of people tuning in to watch this event is because even the name is quite exclusive. “Para” is used to signify an event that runs parallel to the actual Olympics. Watt mentions that, even though this name acknowledges the uniqueness that is the Paralympic sport, it furthers these ‘other’ athletes from the mainstream. These competitors want to be recognized as an athlete before their disability, the same way that Olympic competitors are recognized.
So, Why is it Important after all?
Two words to answer this question: Challenging stereotypes. For the people who stereotype others with disabilities, these games can truly open their minds to seeing all the incredible things these athletes can do regardless of their difficulties. This helps our society see, and hopefully change, how we view these people; not simply dependent, but determined, adaptable, and very hard-working individuals.
Not only this but this is a huge representation of people with a disability and can give hope to a lot of kids that are similar/identify with them. If these kids only had access to the Olympics, maybe they wouldn't think it was possible to be a successful athlete or even more than just their disability. But hopefully, the Paralympics do give them a little bit of that hope and drive to make them believe in whatever they want to achieve.
Recognizing our Amazing Athletes
Marina Carolina Santiago is an incredible Paralympic swimmer that has garnered Brasil 3 golds, 1 silver, and 1 bronze medal despite having a visual impairment. The Paralympic medalist has been swimming since the age of four and mentioned that the sport didn't provide any risk to her eye condition and would often practice swimming with her brother.
Silvânia Costa is another brazilian gold medalist from Minas Gerais! The athlete also has a visual impairment and is already a two-time champion in the long jump, garnering Brasil one gold medal in the sport.
Ihar Boki is, currently (01/09/2021), the best athlete in the Tokyo 2020 Paralympics, garnering Belarus with 5 gold medals! The paralympic athlete began swimming in 2000, at age 6. While he didn't like training at first, he became enthusiastic after his first competition, shaping the multi-paralympic medalist he is today.
Opening Ceremony / Schedule
The opening ceremony has already occurred in Tokyo, bringing out themes like coexistence, sustainability, reconstruction, and inclusion. As usual, there was a huge party, fireworks, and a parade for each country.
You can click here to get updated on the official paralympic schedule (including live broadcasts and medals). I don't know what country you're from, but I'll be here cheering for Brazil!
International Paralympic Committee