07 September 2012

Paralympics - London 2012

by Fiona Sherwin

A significant event began on Thursday 30 August with the opening of the 2012 Paralympics in London. Compared to the Olympics two weeks before, it is receiving far less attention from media outlets such as television.

When the Olympics were held, Sky TV dedicated five channels to provide full coverage – we could even, if we chose to, watch sports that are not often heard of in New Zealand. The Paralympics are being shown on one channel, and even then it seems to be only twice daily highlights and events in which New Zealand has no competitors.

By Day 8 of the competition New Zealand has averaged more than a medal a day with 14 medals. Sophie Pascoe, 19, has three Gold Medals, two silvers (and a World Record in the 100m Butterfly heat, plus a Paralympic record in the 100m Freestyle). She has succeeded her goal to beat her Beijing haul of 3 gold and a silver that she won as a 15 year old.

Mary Fisher took silver in the 100m Backstroke and bronze in the 50m Freestyle. Cameron Leslie defended his Gold and broke his own World Record in the 150m Medley in swimming. What’s more, swimming isn’t the only thing he’s good at; Cameron is also a member of the Wheelblacks wheelchair rugby team. Phillipa Gray and Laura Thompson (pilot) have won gold and broken the World Record for the Tandem Women’s pursuit, bronze in the 1km time trial, and now silver in the Individual B time trial in cycling. Michael Johnson took the bronze in the Air Rifle standing competition in the shooting. Fiona Southorn also took bronze in the cycling with the C5 Women’s Pursuit.

We now have 14 medals. My question is why are these athletes not getting the coverage that our able bodied athletes received? They train harder and longer in order to get to where they’re at. I am pretty sure they wouldn’t be getting the funding that those in mainstream athletics would. But looking at the schedule, the coverage is only of morning and evening highlights. I question the fairness of this. Our athletes already are on their way to a better haul than our Olympic team (who did an amazing job this year).

I desire and yearn for an inclusive society for those with disabilities. I desire to witness and fully celebrate with the successes of our athletes – including those with physical and intellectual disabilities. Attitudes will only change if more of us voice our concern over the inequality that is being displayed. New Zealand has a history of being change-makers. I believe this is something worth fighting for!

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