Some things are just messed up
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.