The one thing I think is missing from the Sochi broadcast.

I remember the first time I had a glimpse of the Paralympics. No, it was not the svelte and good-looking Oscar Pistorius zooming down the track at superhuman speed.  It was, in fact, an advertisement–mere fleeting glances of Paralympic athletes flashing across the screen in a PR stunt as the International Olympic Committee boasted about its decision to include the Paralympics alongside the Olympic Games. The year was 2008, and the summer Olympics were taking place in Beijing. It was the first time a host city had hosted both the Olympics and Paralympics in the same venue, and at the same time. It was progress.

But did any of us actually see any of the Paralympic athletes outside of these publicity messages? Were any of the competitions aired? To my knowledge, no. I’ve been a pretty die-hard Olympics spectator for years now, and not once have I seen the Paralympic games aired on television. Out of curiosity, I took it upon myself to find the footage of the Paralympic competitions–and thanks to the internet, that wasn’t too hard to do.

What I discovered was a completely different universe in sport–a universe in which almost everything we think we know about athleticism is either turned on its head or magnified tenfold. For it’s one thing to watch the lithe, genetically gifted, and fully able-bodied Michael Phelps dominate the swimming field, but it’s quite another to witness a feat like this.

Olympic athletes inspire me, but Paralympic athletes inspire me beyond comprehension. These athletes–who have decided to work with their disabilities, in spite of their disabilities, and around their disabilities to generate the strength, power, and athleticism of their able-bodied counterparts–are embodying the pursuit of human potential on a whole new level. These athletes represent the ultimate expression of persistence, perseverance, and the dogged pursuit of dreams regardless of perceived obstacles. These athletes are heroes, and it’s their absence from the televised Olympic Games that breaks my heart.

How would airing the Paralympic Games affect cultural outlooks on ability and disability? Could more widespread coverage of Paralympic athletes ignite change or, at the very least, inspire even deeper levels of humility, respect, and esteem? One can only wonder. But one thing’s for sure: if I had money and/or power, I’d have those athletes all over the media.

As an endurance athlete, I draw great strength from stories of people who are able to overcome seemingly insurmountable challenges to push through and carry on. These people are a constant reminder of the power of the human spirit  to craft the mind and body into strong, powerful, creative expressions of our most authentic selves. The next time you hit the wall during a run, or feel unmotivated to go out and do something active, I recommend watching a clip or two from the Paralympic Games. Whether it puts tears in your eyes or inspires a deep level of awe and respect, I guarantee it will light a fire within.

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8 thoughts on “The one thing I think is missing from the Sochi broadcast.

  1. Hi
    We were lucky in the UK in 2012 as the whole of the para games were televised on network TV and the whole country went nuts watching all sorts of events and being inspired to new levels .. Hope this continues at Rio !!

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      1. Yep you also have the whole time delay thing to contend with as the world tweets the results 🙂
        Loving your work !!
        Cheers

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  2. Wah, thanks for sharing this Carrie. I must admit, I felt something weird during the swimmers introduction. But once they were in the water. Everything changed. When I trained in Singapore, I had the chance to train with disable athletes and it’s definitely inspiring. Keep it up C.

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    1. I know exactly what you mean by “everything changed.” Really puts life in perspective, no? That’s awesome that you have had the opportunity to train alongside disabled athletes–must have been an incredible experience. I am currently looking into residency training with adaptive sports programs, that’s how much this inspired me. Perhaps being an osteopath will come in handy! ;]

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  3. Thanks for this post; you bring up an important topic. Same goes for the Special Olympics. The main attention these competitions get is when clips are shown in PR stunts, as you said. There’s something to be said for the fastest, most coordinated human being on the planet being showcased in primetime at the regular Olympics. But the separate and equally awe-inspiring Paralympics and Special Olympics are just as inspiring and moving, if not more so.

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    1. Wow…awesome insights here. Thank you for bringing up the Special Olympics–that particular event is very dear to me, as I had a cousin with Down Syndrome who was an avid athlete in the Games. Whether it’s a physical disability or an intellectual one, disability itself is an obstacle most able-bodied athletes can’t even fathom, and disabled athletes’ accomplishments deserve major celebration and accolades.

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