Some things are just messed up

Jamaica Gleaner - - KELLY’S WORLD | LAWS OF EVE -

THERE ARE some things I con­sider messed up. One of them was the low cov­er­age of the Paralympics. Now, don’t mis­un­der­stand. I’m no cru­sader for those with phys­i­cal chal­lenges. I’ve never signed any pe­ti­tions or taken part in any ral­lies to cham­pion the cause of per­sons who are not quite as able bod­ied as most of us. But I pe­rused the In­ter­net, pick­ing up re­sults as the games took place in Rio. Not only were ticket sales ex­tremely good (only the 2012 Games in Lon­don could com­pare), but there were some truly great per­for­mances.

One of them that jumped out at me the most was that the top four fin­ish­ers in the 1500-me­tre men’s race in the T13 cat­e­gory (one of the cat­e­gories for vis­ually im­paired ath­letes) all ran faster than the Olympic equiv­a­lent won by Amer­i­can Matthew Cen­trowitz Jr. Ab­del­latif Baka of Al­ge­ria in a world record time of 3:48.29, fol­lowed by Tamiru De­misse of Ethiopia with sil­ver and Henry Kirwa of Kenya with bronze. Ab­del­latif’s brother Fouad fin­ished in a time of 3:49.84 in fourth, still faster than Cen­trowitz Jr. Now, let’s be hon­est. The like­li­hood of this hap­pen­ing fre­quently is low. The 100-me­tre record for the T37 cat­e­gory was a lit­tle over a minute. So it’s not go­ing to com­pare to Bolt do­ing it 9.80 sec­onds. But the T37 win­ner, Ge­orgie Her­mitage of Great Bri­tain, has cere­bral palsy. How many of us would, without the same con­di­tion, even com­pete?

Like I said, T13 refers to one cat­e­gory of visual im­pair­ment. Th­ese ath­letes are not so im­paired that they need guides to help them around the track. But they are still con­sid­ered vis­ually im­paired by ‘nor­mal’ stan­dards. I think that’s part of the prob­lem some peo­ple have with the Paralympics. Some of us have dif­fer­ent con­cepts of what makes some­one a Par­a­lympian. They don’t un­der­stand that if one of your arms is shorter than the other, for in­stance, you are at a dis­ad­van­tage against ath­letes with two arms of the same length.

For some peo­ple, be­ing ‘legally blind’ doesn’t make you a Par­a­lympian. They think you have to be com­pletely without sight to qual­ify. Nope. It’s as long as you have some trou­ble get­ting around on a daily ba­sis. Some ar­gu­ment even arose as to whether the cat­e­gories should be fur­ther bro­ken down as, for ex­am­ple, there are dif­fer­ent stages and types of the con­di­tions th­ese ath­letes live with. But that doesn’t take away from what they have achieved. I guar­an­tee I can’t throw a javelin far­ther than Al­phanso Cun­ning­ham, one of our peren­nial Par­a­lympic cham­pi­ons.

And no, I’m not the lone voice in the wilder­ness. The Chi­nese me­dia was chas­tised for its lack of cov­er­age by its own cit­i­zens. Amer­i­can me­dia crit­i­cised the lack of spon­sor­ship of its ath­letes.

So that’s a start. Maybe by the next Paralympics things will get bet­ter.

Ja­maica’s Al­phanso Cun­ning­ham com­pet­ing in the men’s javelin throw – F54 fi­nal in Olympic Sta­dium dur­ing the Par­a­lympic Games in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, last Fri­day. Cun­ning­ham placed fifth in the event.

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