Home Opinions Let’s talk about the Paralympics for once

Let’s talk about the Paralympics for once

by Alex Hutchins September 13, 2016
Let’s talk about the Paralympics for once

Why the hell is it so hard to find coverage of the Paralympic Games

I’m not the Olympics’ number one fan, nor do I know much about the athletes—but I could tell you Michael Phelps probably won a medal at the Rio 2016 Games. What I couldn’t tell you before writing this article was a single name—let alone sport—of a Canadian Paralympian. And I know that it’s not just me who can (unfortunately) say this. So let’s talk about the Paralympics, because you can be damn sure no one else is.

If you try Googling articles about the Rio 2016 Games, anything related to the Paralympics will either be at the bottom of the page, or on the uncharted second page. Have you ever actually seen any TV ads specifically for the Paralympics (or any YouTube skip-ads)? Probably not.

This past month, Vogue Brazil photoshopped the limbs of two celebrity models in order to make them appear disabled, in a bid to promote the upcoming Paralympic Games, according to Vox. To make matters worse, the same report described how the publication had two Paralympians present at the photo-shoot to guide the models with their poses. Completely messed up, right?

These athletes have trained for years, heard “you can’t” more often than any Olympian, yet their accomplishments take a backseat because our society is ableist and places a higher value on able bodied Olympians. Take this for example, Brazilian powerlifter Marcia Menezes competed on home soil, earning gold during a trial event. The stadium she was competing in was relatively empty, and wasn’t even open to the public, unlike other ticketed trial events, according to The Sun. How is that okay?

Instagram Photo from Brazilian Vogue

I spoke with two Canadian Paralympic athletes: Brad Bowden, an ice sledge hockey player, and swimmer Jean-Michel Lavallière. Both were thrilled to talk about the games. “I used to get nervous [playing] in front of large crowds,” said Bowden. “Once you hear people cheer, you feel like you have thousands of friends cheering you on.”

To think there are some athletes competing in empty stadiums, devoid of cheering—it’s  almost as heartbreaking as the fact that no one is talking about it.

Graphic by Florence Yee

Graphic by Florence Yee.

Lavallière is currently competing in Rio, but wasn’t able to give a full in depth interview. He was still grateful for the media coverage, however, revealing that “the Canadian Paralympic swim team is currently in a media blackout.” Lavallière didn’t elaborate on this statement, leaving it open to interpretation.

 

The fact I received answers from these athletes demonstrates that it isn’t overly difficult to get in touch with them—there’s simply no excuse not to have more coverage of the amazing work they do. Simply put, there is not enough coverage of the Paralympics in mainstream media. Why is this so difficult to talk about, let alone change?

I don’t think the public gives these athletes the same level of attention and respect as their able bodied counterparts—and there’s definitely not the same kind of memorable buildup to the Paralympics. Don’t you think it’s time we give these athletes the recognition and praise they’ve sweat and bled for? I certainly do.

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