Last week I wrote a blog for Culture Vultures about the Paralympic games. I had a chat with Emma on the Wednesday before the opening ceremony about how I felt about the games at that point in time. I wanted people to not see the athletes in terms of their disabilities, but in terms of the achievements they make, not the achievements DESPITE their disabilities.
After watching the games daily, which I didn’t expect to do, I’ve realised that I was right, but not about all athletes. Some athletes, like Ellie Simmonds, I can respect, without thinking about their disability – she’s only 17 and shaved 5 seconds off the world record. This is awesome, no matter if she has a disability or not.
However, after watching athletes with no arms doing breast stroke and back stroke, archers pulling back the bowstring with their feet and teeth, blind footballers saving goals simply by listening to a bell inside the ball … I concede I might have been wrong. These people are clearly achieving something despite their disability – I feel patronising by not adding ‘with no arms’. They do seem to deserve some extra congratulations – but I’m still not sure they’d necessary welcome it.
What I feel like I was correct about is Oscar Pistorius. To complain about another athlete’s running blades just after you lose looks like sour grapes, and to apologise the next morning, it’s all a bit too late.
So I looked into it. If you haven’t seen what’s happening Pistorius complained because he feels Oliviera is at an advantage because he is allowed blades which are longer than Pistorius’. Oliviera’s blades are completely legal, they were okayed prior to the race, along with everyone else’s and are the same sort as the runner who came in third.
The fact that Pistorius complained straight after the game, is bad form – he made himself look like a bad loser. He’s apologised for the timing, but stands by what he said – he’s told the Paralympic Committee before that he feels these new blades are unfair.
Why doesn’t Pistorius change his own blades? Seems obvious, right? Why give yourself an unlevel playing field. The fact is, he doesn’t change his blades, because if he wants to continue to compete in events with able bodied people, he has to follow different guidelines, set by the International Association of Athletics Federations.
So my point seems valid still – he’s either disabled or he isn’t. If he wishes to compete alongside able-bodied people, then he can’t complain when other double amputees use blades which are completely legal in a competition geared towards those with disabilities.
What he’s actually done is made himself average in both competitions, instead of excelling in the Paralympics where he’s previously won lots of gold medals. He qualified with a world record time in the heats, which he didn’t emulate in the final race – in the final he was beaten by someone who has given themselves what he considers an advantage, albeit legal, over him. Of course when he doesn’t win, he’s going to blame that ‘advantage’ which he’s denied himself through wanting to compete in both competitions.
Perhaps Pistorius should rethink which events he’d like to compete in – keep his current blades so he complies with the IAAF and can compete alongside able-bodied athletes, or choose to compete solely in IPC events so he can change his blades and level the playing field once more.