Special Olympics Torch Run

We have all seen and heard about the story of the Olympic Torch and watched it be carried into the stadium during the opening ceremonies where it remains lit for the duration of the games. Likewise, we have watched the flame be put out during the closing ceremonies. Several months before the start of the Olympics at Olympia, Greece, the site of the ancient Olympics, the Olympic Torch is ignited and culminates on the day of the opening ceremonies and is typically carried into the main stadium by a sports celebrity from the country that is hosting the games. Said individual uses the torch to start the afore-mentioned flame and this signals the true start of the Olympic Games. The Olympic Torch passes through various cities and towns and is often mentioned on the news in the days and months leading up to the Olympics.

However, what many people are not aware of is the Special Olympics Torch Run which is officially referred as the Law Enforcement Torch Run (LETR). The LETR has a primary goal very similar to that of this blog, raising awareness of and in their case, money for the Special Olympics brand. Since its inception in 1981, the LETR has raised over $400 million for the Special Olympics. As one might expect, this also serves as the largest fundraiser for the Special Olympics, raising more $42.1 million in 2011. You may be wondering why exactly it is referred to as the Law Enforcement Torch Run. That is due to the fact that every two years before the World Winter and Summer games, law enforcement officers, Special Olympic athletes and support officials take part in the LETR. During the most recent LETR, there was a team of 130 members that took part in the run prior to the Special Olympic World Winter Games that were held this past January in PyeongChang, Republic of Korea. However, these runs are not just held before global competitions, they are also conducted before various local, state and national Special Olympic competitions as well. The only difference between those and the LETR that is held prior to the World Games is that law enforcement officers from all around the world will gather before the world competitions.

It may seem like beating on a dead horse, but we’ve discussed at length just how much the Special Olympics have grown over time and other matters of the sort. As previously mentioned, the LETR was created in 1981. It all came from the idea of a Wichita, Kansas Police Chief. Richard LaMunyon saw it as a way to raise awareness and get involved with the Special Olympics and it has taken off from there. Speaking of growth and development, when I was reading some information regarding the Law Enforcement Torch Run, there was a particular quote that really stuck with me that perhaps best sums up the boom of the LETR over time. “What started as a flicker, thirty-two years ago, has grown into a roaring flame of support and stability for Special Olympics athletes worldwide” (Special Olympics). That quote to me truly signifies just how much the LETR has grown in the time since its inception and will continue to raise more and more money, along with attracting volunteers for the Special Olympics.

http://www.specialolympics.org/Sections/Donate/Special_Olympics_Torch_Run.aspx

http://www.specialolympics.org/Video3.aspx?id=19953

-Joe Fitzhenry

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

Rivalry Week.

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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