Tokyo 2020 Paralympics |Inclusion of Va’a

3 Golds, 2 Bronze! Great Britain had dominated Paracanoe at Rio 2016 Paralympics! It was our debut, but as a team we were completely prepared and the result had merely met expectations. It may sound self-righteous to anticipate 5 medals from only 6 races, but most of us had enjoyed the privilege of racing in paracanoe events internationally for at least the previous 3 years, so we were able to anticipate the results with reasonable probability. I say ‘we’ but unfortunately for me, my event was not included in the medal events, so I could do nothing more than watch my team mates race at the second most prestigious sporting event in the world (by our own judgement that is!).

So, the show comes to a close… I can only imagine how the athletes were feeling. The last 4 years of training had come to an end, and despite the fantastic successes, and incredible highs, I suspect that this is followed by a slightly disconsolate feeling of ‘where do I go from here?’. As an athlete it is important to have strong goals, to provide a source of motivation through the difficulties of training.

The Paralympic games made it’s debut in Rome in 1960. Featuring 400 athletes from 23 countries, it was considered a success and was embraced by disabled people throughout the world. The paralympic name was derived from the world ‘parallel’ and ‘olympics’, led by the objective of introducing a sports event equal to the Olympics. Sadly the funding disparity between the two is still very much apparent, but in more recent years this is improving in line with media coverage and thus sponsorship opportunities.

The games are governed by the International Paralympic Committee a non profit organisation, formed in Germany in 1989, with a vision to enable para athletes to achieve sporting excellence and inspire and excite the world.

In terms of inclusion, there is a significant difficulty which is rarely seen in able bodied sport, that of classifying a disability to create fairness throughout events. This is necessary due to the wide ranging types of disability and the need to accommodate specific impairments. If for example we were to compare an athlete with neurological dysfunction to an amputee, we can imagine that there is a potential for mismatch, and as a result there is a fundamental requirement to adopt a robust method of testing and categorizing throughout events.

Thankfully as disabled sport becomes more common on the world stage, testing methods have evolved and created objective and robust methods, which not only reinforces fairness, but also helps to provide spectators with high class and highly competitive events, arguably on parr with able bodied events in terms of being as entertaining to watch, this essentially being the fundamental aspect of the Olympics and Paralympics; spectatorship. 

The last point leads us to remember the shadow cast over Rio 2016 following the ticket scandal. It was saddening to hear of the money making scams of those in high authority to attempt to take vast numbers of tickets and sell them to the public at a profit. This of course failed miserably, and greatly damaged the spectator presence throughout Rio 2016 Olympics. The mis-selling individuals were exposed, but not in time to salvage local spectator numbers. I think that we can say with reasonable confidence, that this issue will not occur on such a large scale again, so thankfully spectators will have great opportunities to visit Olympic and Paralympic events in places as fantastic as Tokyo.