Paralympics receive less fanfare

Following the 2010 Winter Olympics, Vancouver hosted the tenth edition of the Paralympic Winter Games. From March 12-21, approximately 600 athletes from 44 countries stormed Vancouver and Whistler to compete in five sports: alpine skiing, biathlon, cross-country skiing, wheelchair curling and sledge hockey. There were also 64 separate medal events.

For the uninitiated, the Paralympics is an international sporting event organized by the International Paralympic Committee (IPC) that allows athletes with various physical disabilities the opportunity to represent their country on the international stage whereas elsewhere they might be denied the chance. The Paralympics are not to be confused with the Special Olympics, which cater to athletes with intellectual disabilities.

This was the second time a Paralympic competition was held in Canada and this was the first winter edition. The last Paralympic Games held in Canada were the 1976 summer Paralympics in Toronto.

There is some controversy surrounding the 10th Paralympic Winter Games, as they took place after the world has somewhat binged on the mass coverage of the 2010 Winter Olympics held in February two weeks prior.

Donovan Tildesley, a blind, multiple medalist, champion swimmer, had the following to say to CBC journalist Curt Petrovich about the current state of the Paralympics: “The media doesn’t realize how important these games are, and they’re no longer a pity games.”

As attested by Tildesley, based on the poor media exposure of the games, there exists a notion that the Paralympics are secondary to the Olympic Games and deserve less attention.

Despite suffering from reduced media coverage, Tildesley asserts that it is imperative that Paralympics do not take place before or during the Olympics: “Running them consecutively would be a logistical nightmare, running them first would make Paralympians ‘guinea pigs’ to work out the glitches.”

Even with little attention, the 2010 Paralympic Games prove to be a display of high-performance ability as rousing and inspiring as its more popular counterpart. Canadian Paralympic skier Lauren Woolstencroft attested that the patriotic feel of winning a medal on home soil is as overwhelming as any from the Olympic Games. “It’s super exciting to win in front of a Canadian crowd. Have I achieved iconic status? I’ll let the others be the judge of that,” Woolstencroft commented to media at the games. Woolstencroft won five gold medals at the games.

At the close of the Paralympic Games, Canadian athletes earned 19 medals — 10 of them gold, following Germany and the Russian Federation, which led with 38 medals.

Regardless of the controversy which may follow these or any set of games, it is a comforting thought that they take place at all, and a humbling notion that we, as a nation, are fit to host them.