True Grit: An Athlete’s Context

Haven’t we all faced that time in our life, which seems as if it were the toughest and it would be impossible to get everything in place? Reflect on that time when you were so angry with life that you just wanted to give up everything and stop caring about anything or anyone. Everything seems to be dreadful. All it takes is support, wisdom and positivity to get through any obstacle. The people who are the masters of all three are the ones who persevere and prosper. These people have certainly made an impact in many fortunate people’s lives.

Before I go on, do you know what this represents?

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Don’t know? Never seen it before? This is the Paralympic Games Symbol. Ever imagined why it was called Paralympics? ‘Para’ is a prefix that means “beside”, “beyond”, “distinct from but analogous to”. The reference of it suggesting its on-going beside the Olympic Games.  Certainly the biggest and most popular event for those blessed with a special kind of ability.

1960 experienced the first of its kind Paralympic Games at Stadio Olimpico in Rome, Italy hosting 23 nations with over 400 athletes taking part in 8 major sporting events. The events comprised of archery, athletics, dartchery, snooker, swimming, table tennis, wheelchair basketball and wheelchair fencing. Alongside hosting of the games, surfaced amazing talents and led to a how-do-they-do-that wonder.

As time passed by more and more people decided to work their ‘unusual’ bodies in extraordinary ways. Tatyana McFadden is a personality who has explored almost all the turnings in life. Tatyana was born with spina bifida but was adopted at the age of six by American woman Deborah McFadden, who was working for former US President George Bush Sr.. Deborah knew there was something special about Tatyana and brought her back to her Baltimore home. Her adoption started her road to sporting success – but it wasn’t easy. When she returned to high school after taking part in the 2004 Athens Paralympics, Tatyana wanted to compete in track events against students who didn’t have a disability. She was told she couldn’t and it led to Tatyana and Deborah going to court and successfully suing the school. It led to a new law known as Tatyana’s Law, which allows all students with a disability to compete in sporting events alongside non-disabled students. Not only did she evoke the rules for herself but many more who couldn’t express themselves.

Tatyana McFadden
Tatyana McFadden

However, not all has been well in the Olympians arena. Apart from the regular usage of ergogenic aids and performance enhancing medications, some cases have been found that do not comply by the set rules. The 11thsummer Paralympics held in 2000 in Sydney, Australia revealed howSpain had cheated in basketball with only 2 of the players being actually physically disabled. The aftermath brought forth the scandal, when Carlos Ribagorda (member of the team and an undercover journalist) claimed that most of his colleagues had not undergone medical tests to ensure disability.

The world has undertaken a change in attitude towards physical disability. Be it the physically/mentally challenged or the well fortunate beings, both parties have been helping each other out throughout time on their own ways. Surely the upcoming Olympic Games and Paralympic Games are going to bring happiness and love to the entire world. 30 days to go to witness the world come together and take part in the Olympics and Paralympics. Rio, Brazil is going to host 23 sports, 528 events and 176 countries for the 15th Paralympic Games. It is going to be bigger, better and more thrilling than all previously held Paralympics. Many stories will be unfolded, new talents be revealed and hopefully most to all records broken. Surely we will not experience a ‘dis’ in any athlete’s ability. Be sure to take some time off your busy schedule and watch the upcoming athletes do the unbelievable and try to experience their endeavors in the 2016 Olympic and Paralympic Games. I am sure you will be inspired by some of them and might just change your perspective on life as a whole.

By Dakshesh Patani

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