While I hate to admit it, my initial perceptions of the Paralympics were entirely based on the visible. I associated the organization with a naive combination of words that included wheelchair, prosthetic and handicap. I failed to see that the Paralympics represent an amazing event in the sporting industry unlike anything else I have seen before. The athletes who participate in over twenty different sports are overcoming adversity in categories that include but are not limited to mobility disabilities, amputations, blindness, and cerebral palsy.
I think a lot of people do not understand that one of the most important elements of the Paralympics is competition. The athletes are presented with challenges but they want us to look past them and instead focus on the competitive spirit that is rooted in each and every one of them. They want to be seen as equals to non-disabled athletes who are known throughout the world and are role models to millions of kids. Those involved in the Paralympics are extraordinary athletes who are competing at a very high level and do not have the support they deserve.
The Paralympics has seen great growth since its creation in 1948 with new sports and more athletes due to an increase in competitive categories but by no means are they on equal footing with the Olympics. The accomplishments and records that have been set by these athletes represent achievements that hardly anyone has probably heard of. When taking this into account I cannot understand why there is hardly any television coverage and such a huge gap in funding compared to the Olympics.
Just as many people across the world, I love watching the Olympics but the lack of attention the Paralympics receives seems wrong. When looking at the adversity these athletes face I can only be amazed at the internal and external strength each one of them possesses. My initial thought about the Paralympics could not have been more wrong, and I am forever changed. If I were to go back I would replace my original three words with determination, strength and heart. I hope that this blog can spread awareness to help people realize just how incredible the Paralympics are and potentially assist the International Paralympic Committee in gaining support.
– Erika Schmid