Ableism: Can’t we just value and honour each other for our achievements?

Four Paralympians Just Ran The 1500m Faster Than Anyone At The Rio Olympics Final

What a fantastic headline! Reading the article is turns out that the top four places in the 1500m race at the Paralympics for the visually impaired made times faster that the winning time in the regular Olympics a few weeks ago.

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Initially, it seemed that for once, disabled people were being applauded for their accomplishments while demonstrating that disability is not inability.

Yet within minutes of the story being published it was being torn apart. Apparently, the top athletes in the 1500m Olympics have all run faster than the winning time for the Paralympics.

They just didn’t choose to do so for the Olympics. Instead, they ran a “strategic” or “tactical” race. That is, that they knew that to win they only needed to cross the line before the other person. The actual time didn’t matter.

Excuse me? You’re honestly telling me that these athletes that are considered the best in the world, that have worked and trained for years to make it to the Olympics would not be giving their best that day?

How is that OK?

You’re now demeaning both the Olympians and the Paralympians.

To the Paralympians, you’re saying – oh, but the Olympians weren’t really trying. So your accomplishment doesn’t mean as much because the Olympians have run faster than you on other occasions.

Maybe so, but they didn’t do so on the day that it mattered. The day that they raced in front of the world to represent their country.

To the Olympians, you’re saying – It’s OK, we understand that you didn’t really run your best that day. You just needed to win, the time didn’t matter. These Paralympians didn’t really just run faster than you, on the day that it mattered, despite being visually impaired.

I guess it would be complete heresy to wonder how fast the Paralympians would have run if they weren’t visually impaired?

Personally, I think we should put blindfolds on the Olympians and run the race with Paralympians and Olympians alike!

Oh, but that wouldn’t be fair? Why is that?

I don’t see the visually impaired Paralympians running with guides? I don’t see any special equipment on that track other than a bell being rung at the finishing line.

Oh, but the Paralympians are used to being visually impaired?

Does that mean that the Olympians are not used to being able-bodied?

Give me a break!

These four Paralympians accomplished something fantastic! They made great times and they happened to do so in times that were faster that the current Olympic medal winners. Not only that but the Gold Medal Winner, Abdellatif Baka, broke the world record in men’s 1500-metre T13!

How about instead of finding excuses for why the Paralympians ran faster times than the Olympians we just say Congratulations!

Oh, and if you’re an Olympian and you did run a “tactical” race and not run your best that day – I am sorry that you chose to do that. However, that was your choice. You chose to not run your best that day. If you seriously trained as hard as you did, for as long as you did, to make it to the Olympics and then didn’t do your absolute best I really don’t understand sport!

I really hope that it isn’t true.

That you did your very best. That the Paralympians did their very best and on this occasion the Paralympians ran faster winning times for the same event.

I hope that we can stop perpetuating stereotypes and stigmatising the disabled based on half-baked assumptions and idiotic thoughts.

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Instead of taking away from the achievements and accomplishments of our athletes, and leaving them wondering why they’re still not being accepted for the elite sportsmen that they are; let’s start celebrating all accomplishments and eliminating ableism once and for all.

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As these Paralympians have truly demonstrated, remove the barriers to the disabled and there is nothing that they cannot accomplish.

Perhaps the Canadian Paralympic Committee might like to think about honouring our Paralympic medal winners in the same way that the Canadian Olympics Committee does with case prizes for medal winners?

Not every country pays their winning athletes cash prizes, either Olympians or Paralympians, but for a country that prides itself on its Human Rights, I find it reprehensible that Canada discriminates against its disabled athletes in this way.

Either pay neither or pay both, but paying one and not the other is not acceptable.

It is 2016 after all Prime Minister Trudeau.

Sportsmanship isn’t dead… but it doesn’t seem to exactly be thriving either…

With the 2016 Olympics in full swing there have been some incredible accomplishments. Canada’s female athletes have been leading the way with all but one of the country’s first 13 medals all going to our women.

However, one thing that I’ve noticed is some of the poor sportsmanship being displayed.

From athletes, such as Gabby Douglas, being disrespectful to her own team mates, and not respecting her own national anthem, to Hope Solo calling the team that she lost to ‘cowards’: examples of poor sportsmanship keep being demonstrated.

It’s noy just the Americans either with the Egyptian competitor refusing to shake hands with his Israeli opponent before a judo match.

Sometimes, it’s even considered acceptable on the grounds that “it was personal”. Such as when Michael Phelps  raised his fingers in the air after winning gold in the mens 200m butterfly, refusing to even look at his rival Chad le Clos of South Africa.

The crowds are even getting in on the act booing just about everybody. They’re booing the favourites, Russians, politicians, anybody competing against Brazil (even when they’ve been injured), the judges and apparently even just booing for fun!

In the name of all the competitors I promise that we shall take part in these Olympic Games, respecting and abiding by the rules which govern them, committing ourselves to a sport without doping and without drugs, in the true spirit of sportsmanship, for the glory of sport and the honor of our teams.

Given that all Olympians declare the Olympic Oath which explicitly states the support of sportsmanship I find these behaviours despicable, and the fact that statements like this one from John Ridley even exist deplorable.

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Thankfully, all is not lost. There are some stories of good sportsmanship with the American Olympic archery team leading the way. What I love about this story is that the athletes’ parents are demonstrating and leading their children by example with their support for each other and all their children.

If they can understand that how they act and behave is important then hopefully others will start to realise that they are on the world’s stage. Every time one of these elite athletes act poorly millions of children are watching and will emulate their behaviour.

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Hopefully, following the Archery team’s example other athlete’s will step up and honour their olympic oath.

If any of them need a reminder as to what good sportsmanship looks like they need look no further than Jack Sock in a tennis match this past January. Much to the amusement of the referee Jack Sock tells his opponent, Leighton Hewitt, to challenge a call made by the ref. demonstrating that being honest was more important than winning that day.

That’s an athlete that is not only phenomenal at his chosen sport but one who is also a great human being which will stand him well in life both now and when he retires from the sport.

He’s not alone.

Over the years there have been incredible moments of sportsmanship at the Olympics. From sailors honouring the code of all sailors everywhere to help another in distress, at the cost of their own medal chances, to athletes lending equipment to others.

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In this era where everything that these athletes do is instantly transmitted around the globe and delivered literally into the hands of tomorrow’s athletes I hope that in these remaining days of the 2016 Summer Olympics in Rio we start seeing more and more athletes not only living up to their oath but also understanding what Damien Scott says so well:

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Please urge our athletes to uphold the spirit of the Olympics, stop making excuses for bad sportsmanship and hold our athletes accountable for their behavior. They are setting the example for our athletes of tomorrow.