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Another Obstacle, Another Opportunity to Shine - Paralympics 2016

2016-08-22 Posted By Jenna

There are some people who have worked years to get to this one moment. There are some people who’ve been dreaming of what’s just around the corner practically their whole lives. Whether they want to inspire, or they’ve been inspired by those who have come before them, these people have made sacrifices and brought their minds, bodies and spirits to the brink. Who are these people? The paralympians of the 2016 Paralympics (hosted in Rio). My next question - will these athletes get to fulfill their dreams?

“The Paralympic Games will take place as planned next month, but face major budget cuts, the International Paralympic Committee has announced.” This is the subheading of an article on the BBC’s website, which has more bad news. With 17 days left until the Games begin, Rio is still looking to raise the money to fund this event - so far, only 12% of tickets have been sold. This lack of funding has caused a delay in getting travel grants, causing some countries to worry about whether they’ll even be able to travel to represent their country. "Never before in the 56-year history of the Paralympic Games have we faced circumstances like this,” IPC president Sir Philip Craven tells the BBC. You’d think that after 56 years we’d have our act together (or after over 2,000 years in the case of the Olympics).

The Olympic Games were seemingly nothing short of chaotic, plagued by: controversy, low attendance, and pools that turned people’s hair green! This has all happened during the “main” event - the Olympics - and I have a feeling it’s going to get much worse for our paralympians. As a result of all the challenges that have been thrown at the athletes, it's became all the more thrilling to watch USA’s women’s Gymnastics team rock the world, Chinese Olympic Swimmer, Fu Yuanhui, win her bronze medal AND give the world a reality check about Mother Nature, and Michael Phelps didn’t do too badly, either.

But things are looking more desperate as the next set of athletes prepare to take their turn on the world stage, leading up to the Paralympics, “Catastrophic for the IPC and the Paralympic movement. No time to do much now,” says four-time Olympic gold medallist Matthew Pinsent (rower). Maybe he's right, maybe there isn't any time left to meaningfully turn things around, or maybe there is (I’m betting my money that there is, even if it’s in the form of a plan to make change). In fact, I’m almost positive that it’s written in the DNA of so many people who face health challenges to fall, but not to stay down - they get back up, they learn, and they figure out another way to get done what’s in front of them.

These athletes shouldn’t have to face these obstacles for nothing, “So much for parity! I always feel second best to my Olympic counterparts! This is simply unacceptable!” says Jon-Allan Butterworth, three-time Paralympic silver medallist winning cyclist. He’s right. It’s time to change the way the Olympics and Paralympics are appreciated. Call me crazy but, can’t they happen at the same time? What if Judo events for both Games take place at the same time? Or Basketball? Or Tennis? So many people come in for the Olympics but can’t stay to see the Paralympics - or might not want to. Overlapping the Games could fill venues, bringing people who might not otherwise find themselves watching Paralympic Games doing just that! This could be an opportunity to offer new perspectives on what it takes to be a champion!

It’s heartbreaking to see what our paralympians are up against, especially in this day and age, and at a time when we need to be reminded that the human spirit is the most valuable entity we possess. HOWEVER, I don’t doubt that over the course of history this heartbreak will turn into phenomenal triumph. I can’t wait to see how the world rallies from this, and hopefully I can be a part of the conversation on how to get there.

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“Overcome the notion that we must be regular... it robs you of the chance to be EXTRAORDINARY ”
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