The Paralympics is where the lights shine on some of the best athletes in the world. Just as the Olympics is the peak for many of the world’s best able-bodied athletes, the Paralympics allows those with some sort of disability the chance to put their athletic skills to the test against others with similar conditions. Unfortunately for these athletes, most of their hard work and accomplishments get about as much coverage as the Olympics 5th place finishers.
Many of you know who Simone Biles, Michael Phelps, Usain Bolt, and Katie Ledecky are. But can you name any of the top Paralympic athletes? Don’t feel too badly, you’re hardly alone. It’s unfortunate though because, some of the most action packed events are in the weeks following the Olympics when the Paralympics torch is lit and those athletes begin competing.
When you think of the Paralympics what comes to mind? Do you think of feeble athletes who can barely make it across the start line? Do you think of people who need crutches or a cane? Or, do you think of record holders? People who ran a faster time than the runners in the regular Olympics? If you don’t think of the latter, you might want to reconsider. The Paralympics 1500 meter sprint had not one, not two, not three, but four runners in the T13 class beat the gold medal time for Rio.
While major advancements have been made in technology for disabled people, such as new and improved technology around blades, let’s also clarify one thing – the T13 class athletes did not have blades or any electronic devices helping them. They didn’t use anything that wouldn’t be allowed in the regular Olympics. That means had they entered the regular Olympics, the United States would not have even placed. The podium would have been Abdellatif Baka from Algeria, Tamiru Demisse from Ethiopia would have been second, and Kenyan Henry Kirwa would have been third.
These athletes have something extra and extraordinary that even able-bodied Olympians have: The Paralympians all had to overcome a disability or an injury to get to their high level of conditioning and competition. Some had to learn how to walk again, some had to learn to ride a bike with only one arm or one leg. Some can’t see and had to learn to compete blind.
Last week we did a story on four famous people who had disabilities, (read it here). But this week we are focusing on the others, the ones who aren’t famous . . . yet. They aren’t famous because we don’t give them the recognition they deserve. If we got behind our paralympic athletes the way we get behind our Olympic athletes we could do some amazing things. Not only would they get the recognition they deserve but they would be able to raise awareness for their causes. We might be able to advance research for prosthetics, or vision treatments, or hearing loss advances.
We believe the Paralympians should be congratulated! We also wish to take a moment to remember Iranian cyclist Bahman Golbarnezhad. Who tragically passed away after a crash in the first section of the Grumari loop. He went into cardiac arrest on his way to the athlete care center. The medical team quickly rushed him to the local hospital where he passed away shortly after. He was 48 years old.