Why the Paralympics is special
Following the Paralympics closing ceremony and Team Great Britain excelling in the medal count, there is a buzz around the event. Many are asking what the Paralympics is all about, and what differentiates it from other sporting events.
The Paralympic Games are held just after both the summer and winter games and are specifically designed for athletes with physical, visual, and intellectual disabilities.
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It all began when a doctor named Ludwig Guttmann organised an athletics competition in Great Britain. Initially, it was an archery tournament for injured veterans taking place on the same day that the 1948 London Olympics began.
While unfortunate that it required a horrible war for society to permit disabled people to participate in sport at the highest level, like their able-bodied counterparts, this was the springboard for the Paralympic games to emerge.
Every four years, the Paralympics is held. The best disabled athletes from around the world participate to obtain medals for their country. In many instances, the stories behind these athletes make for even more interesting profiles than your average athlete.
Take Trischa Zorn, for example. The American swimmer was born with a genetic defect in her left eye, blinding her from day one. And now she is the most successful Paralympian in history, winning 55 medals, including 41 gold. An absolutely staggering achievement.
Or take fan-favourite Ellie Simmonds. The British athlete was born with ancondroplasia dwarfism, but that has not deterred her in the slightest. She earned two gold medals in 2012, adding a further in 2016 with a world record to boot.
People who have also been rendered disabled from events in their life are eligible too. Sailor Helena Lucas was left unable to use her hands and thumbs properly, ending up becoming a tremendously successful Paralympian.
Let’s have a look at this year’s Paralympics. Great Britain finished second in the medal table, behind China and beating powerhouses Australia, New Zealand, Brazil and, most notably, the USA. There is no shortage of brilliant athletes at our disposal.
The Paralympics are unique from any other sporting event. It is a shining spot for people who are stigmatised by the ailments that afflict their lives but end up shining brighter than anyone else.
Even as someone able-bodied, I still relish switching on the Paralympic games. It boggles my mind, the amount of things these incredible athletes can do with so much holding them back.