Su­per­hu­man tri­umphs

The Rio Par­a­lympians have in­spired the world with their dis­play of in­domitable spirit and tri­umphs over ad­ver­si­ties.

The Star Malaysia - Star2 - - Frontpage -

The Rio Paralympics cel­e­brate the most in­cred­i­ble feats of strength and re­silience.

THE Rio Par­a­lympic Games are in the home stretch.

About 4,350 ath­letes are com­pet­ing for the 528 gold medals up for grabs across 23 sports over 11 days of com­pe­ti­tion. New world records have been set at neck break­ing pace.

Each ath­lete has a unique dif­fer­ence that have to be clas­si­fied. Lines have to be drawn to group sim­i­lar im­pair­ments, or im­pair­ments that yield sim­i­lar re­sults. There are 10 im­pair­ment groups based on phys­i­cal, vis­ual and in­tel­lec­tual cri­te­ria. The Par­a­lympic sports ad­just the groups to suit their in­di­vid­ual events, swelling the clas­si­fi­ca­tions to hun­dreds.

The Rio Par­a­lympic Games needed a bailout from Brazil’s gov­ern­ment of al­most US$ 80mil ( RM330 mil) to make it to the start­ing line. Only 200,000 tick­ets had been sold a few weeks be­fore the open­ing cer­e­mony Aug 7, but of­fi­cials said de­mand picked up and they had sold nearly their goal of 2.4 mil­lion. That is partly be­cause ticket prices have been low­ered.

But many peo­ple are also com­ing to the Paralympics to wit­ness the amaz­ing feats of strength and re­silience on dis­play.

Th­ese in­cred­i­ble ath­letes are chal­leng­ing and shat­ter­ing pre­con­cep­tions to­wards so- called dis­abil­i­ties.

Fans have been cheer­ing and sup­port­ing the ath­letes, as pas­sion­ately as they did in the Olympics. Brazil­ian ath­letes have of course been the most loved.

“At the time, I en­tered the sta­dium and I saw it was packed, and the sup­port­ers shout­ing, sud­denly my legs be­came so happy and they ran alone and I went be­hind them,” said Brazil­ian ath­lete Petru­cio Fer­reira Dos San­tos, who fol­lowed his danc­ing legs to a world record of 10.67 sec­onds in the T47 100me­tre sprint.

Tele­vi­sion is start­ing to drive the cov­er­age and rev­enue.

Bri­tish broad­caster Channel 4 is tele­cast­ing non- stop daily live cov­er­age. Dan Brooke, the head of mar­ket­ing, de­clined to say how much the network paid for the rights, but called it “a suc­cess­ful com­mer­cial op­er­a­tion. We make money out of it.”

Brooke ex­pected rat­ings to fall in Rio com­pared to the 2012 Lon­don Games, but he got a sur­prise.

“We’ve been amazed to find the au­di­ences for young peo­ple are up very slightly vs. Lon­don,” he said.

Big money is chang­ing the land­scape with coun­tries like China, Bri­tain and Ukraine pour­ing more re­sources into train­ing.

Brazil­ian swim­mer Daniel Dias has 11 spon­sor­ships, and that could in­crease as he adds to the 10 gold medals he won in the last two Paralympics. Bladerun­ner Mar­lou van Rhijn has be­come a mar­ket­ing gi­ant in the Nether­lands, the way Os­car Pis­to­rius was in South Africa.

Com­pa­nies are be­gin­ning to recog­nise the ap­peal of the Par­a­lympian story of the in­domitable hu­man spirit.

The Paralympics are more than a be­nign ver­sion of the Olympics. In fact, a few per­for­mances have been bet­ter than the Olympics.

The top four run­ners in the men’s 1,500me­ter – in the T13 class for vis­ually im­paired – all had bet­ter times than the Olympic cham­pion in last month’s Rio Olympics.


For­mer For­mula 1 driver Alex Za­nardi won a Par­a­lympic gold medal in the H5 road time trial on the eve of the 15th an­niver­sary of the mo­tor­sport crash that robbed him of his legs. ' I feel very lucky, I feel my life is a never- end­ing priv­i­lege,' said the 49- year- old Ital­ian hand- cy­clist.


US wheel­chair racer Tatyana McFad­den is one of the great­est ath­letes of the Paralympics. She made her Paralympics de­but at 15 at the Athen Games, and was aim­ing to win seven gold medals at the Rio Paralympics, in ev­ery event from the 100 me­ters to the marathon.

French world cham­pion Marie- Amelie le Fur broke the long jump T44 world record twice on her way to win­ning the gold medal in Rio. Her left leg was am­pu­tated be­low the knee fol­low­ing a mo­tor scooter ac­ci­dent 12 years ago. Be­fore she lost her leg, she was a French ju­nior run­ning cham­pion.

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