Time for a Change

A few weeks ago I stumbled upon a video pertaining to attitudes of the disabled and was extremely inspired. Today I am not only posting the video but am also writing a short piece to make sure people understand the message that lies within. Francesca Martinez is a writer, actress and comedian living with cerebral palsy who has shown that having a disability does not mean that you cannot be successful. While I hate to say it, I think it is relatively common for abled bodied individuals to have a quick laugh or giggle at someone who is disabled. I firmly believe the reason that this happens is not because we actually think it is funny but because it is a defense mechanism to make ourselves feel comfortable. I commend Francesca because I think her understanding and acceptance of this point has really helped her career. Rather than let people make her upset for her disability, she is able to laugh at herself and find a little humor in a situation that most individuals are rightfully sensitive about.

One quote that stood out during this video was when Francesca said, “My biggest fear was being pitied”. When I think about the Paralympics I think this is one element that almost every athlete competing can agree on. The Paralympics is an intensive athletic event that requires all athletes to undergo serious training and practice. I think the last thing any of the athletes would want would be to have people look at them and say “Wow, it is a real shame they have a disability”. The athletes want to be appreciated not for their handicap but for what they are able to accomplish in their specific sport. We all admire the winning streaks of Tiger Woods or the highlight real dunks by LeBron James so why shouldn’t we be impressed with Paralympians. If people sat down and really read about or watched videos they would be absolutely mesmerized by the skill and level of competition that exists.

Another point of this video that I feel is important to mention is what we define as “normal”. Every single person on this planet is raised in a way that is slightly different then the neighbor next door or person half way around the world. At the end of the day we all have lives where what is normal changes for everyone. Just as Francesca mentioned, normal for her is living with cerebral palsy and earning money by making people laugh with her incredible attitude. I think far too often we fail to think that people with disabilities do not wake up every day and realize that they are any different from a majority of us. Just as people get used to using crutches or putting contacts in, the athletes in the Paralympics become accustomed to their disabilities and develop their own unique routines for their own normal lives. I can only hope that people like Francesca can help change the perceptions about the disabled and that Sochi 2014 can help gain major positive support for all of the athletes!

By:Erika Schmid

Meaning Behind the Mascot

This week I wanted to take some time to discuss mascots. In sports we often refer to the mascot as a figure who represents the ultimate fan or symbol of a franchise. We all love Mr.Met, the Phillie Phanatic and Big Al the elephant from Alabama but what do they really stand for other than a sports icon? The truth is they are all just an image that plays into our favorite sports team, and there is nothing wrong with it! Mascots are a great way to add a little fictitious fun to a game and increase interaction with the fans. One thing that I absolutely love about the Paralympics is that their mascots go beyond appearance and incorporate real experiences into their characters. Below I have provided a little background story on the Sochi 2014 mascots Snowflake and Ray of Light.

The background for each of these characters is that both landed on Earth from two different planets. Throughout their journeys Snowflake and Ray of Light each encountered their own set of challenges that they had to overcome to get to where they wanted to be. Upon landing each found themselves in an unfamiliar place where they not only looked different but were accustomed to different ways of life. Ray of Light landed first and felt uncomfortable and distant from the others around him. After his initial fear subsided he slowly interacted with others and was able to make a lot of new friends who showed him about life on Earth. He soon realized that once he showed others who he was on the inside that he was not all that different after all. Ray of Light took Snowflake under his wing when she arrived and the two loved the new sports they were introduced to in their new home. To make their own mark, Ray of Light and Snowflake got creative and devised their own sports that they shared with the others.

Now some of you may have thought the above paragraph was childish but take a moment to think about the message that was sent. Two people managed to excel in an environment that was foreign to them and find a way to make an impact on the lives of other people. They demonstrated that everyone has their own innate talents that make them unique and contribute to their own success. While the journey to get to where they landed was difficult, they both managed to find a way to persevere and make the most out of their new opportunity. Part of this story focuses on the fact that we tend to judge or label people based on their appearance. Just because somebody does not look like us does not mean that they see anything differently than us or feel any less. The Paralympics are a perfect example of this message because while the athletes may have handicaps, they want to be treated just like everybody else. Each and every athlete has their own personal story about how they overcame the challenge they were dealt and managed to turn it into something extraordinary.

 

Enjoy the following video in honor of the Mascots !

By: Erika Schmid

Rivalry Week.

Image

This week is all about the rivalry. We have all been there at some point. Whether it was in school, work, or sport, there always seems to be that one person right on our heels trying to take what we have worked so hard to accomplish. The Yankees versus the Red Sox, Duke Blue Devils versus the North Carolina Tar Heels, and Lebron James versus Kobe Bryant are just a few rivalries that have surrounded us, but what about Jeremy Campbell versus Dan Greaves or Mandy Francois-Elie versus Johanna Benson? Even though we still have a few years to go until Rio, it is time to start getting familiar with these Paralympic battles that will take stage come 2016.

The U.S.A and Great Britain have a long history, and why should it be any different when it comes to Paralympic sports. Jeremy Campbell of the U.S. and Dan Greaves of Great Britain are a recent rivalry in discus. The two athletes are both amputees that have battled each other out for podium spots and each have earned major accomplishments in their sport. Greaves has been involved in the sport for over fourteen years and has been a dominant athlete in discus. In fact, in 2011 he set the world record at the International Paralympic Championship in New Zealand. To add to his resume, Greaves has also won gold in the 2004 Athens Paralympic games, bronze in 2008 in Beijing and just recently won a silver medal in London.

Beijing and London were both great achievements for Greaves but there was one major roadblock in winning gold for each of these games. Jeremy Campbell. Campbell was the man standing on the podium for the gold in Beijing and London over Greaves. He also broke the record Greaves set in 2011 by setting the record at 60.19 meters and shattering his own person best with a throw of 63.45 meters just months later. The athletic prowess of Campbell led him to an ESPY (Excellence in Sports Performance Yearly award) as the 2013 best male athlete with a disability. Campbell seems to have taken Greaves out of the limelight a little bit in recent years but there is no doubt that Rio 2016 will be the perfect stage for yet another battle between the two high profile athletes.

Two young women recently sparked the beginning of a rivalry in the 2012 London Paralympic games. Mandy Franocois of France who is just 24 years of age and 22 year old Johanna Benson of Nambia have created some excitement in the 100 and 200 meter dash. The two athletes compete in the cerebral palsy division of the Paralympics and have become the two favorites in the sport. Francois-Elie made a name for herself in the International Paralympic Championships when she took the gold among her home crowd in France for the 200 meter dash. She even set the world record in her qualifying run with a time of 23.37 seconds. When the London games rolled around Francois- Elie maintained her dominance and sprinted to the finish line to take gold in the 100 meter dash.

Johanna Benson was not going to let Francois-Elie dominate in London. After receiving silver in the 100 meter dash to Francois-Elie, Benson knew she still had room for improvement and an opportunity to leave London with gold. The 200 meter dash was her only other opportunity and she certainly got her revenge by winning gold over her new rival. Since her recent success Benson has become an iconic figure in Nambia and even started her own foundation to help ensure and motivate disabled people to compete at high levels in sport. These two women will certainly hit the ground running in Rio and be the two to look out for in the race for gold.

By: Erika Schmid

To check out more rivalries amongst the Paralympians check out: http://www.paralympic.org/news/lyon-2013-five-rivalries-watch