Opinion

Planet Rachael: Paralympic parity in the Games

Author and matron Wendy Johnson muses on the divide between the Paralympic and Olympic Games.
Rio Paralympics

Was your summer like mine? Work going well, talk of a promotion, your lovely daughter Rachael remarking that you didnt look quite as haggard as you did last week, mum?

You come home after another world-conquering pants-on-the-outside-of-your-trousers kind of day, switch on the TV, and within 5 minutes of watching the Olympic highlights feel like the worlds biggest underachiever?

There is something about a backward triple twist with pike dive that just makes you want to reach for a pie.

The Paralympics is even worse for the ego. Amazing, body-confident people with remarkable self-belief and self-discipline, who choose to see ability where others see none, and who do not let their disabilities define who they are. Heroes, every one of them.

Symbolic ceremony

I find there is something symbolic in the fact that the founder of the Paralympic Games, Ludwig Guttmann, was a

...

Was your summer like mine? Work going well, talk of a promotion, your lovely daughter Rachael remarking that you didn’t look ‘quite as haggard as you did last week, mum’?

You come home after another world-conquering pants-on-the-outside-of-your-trousers kind of day, switch on the TV, and within 5 minutes of watching the Olympic highlights feel like the world’s biggest underachiever?

There is something about a ‘backward triple twist with pike’ dive that just makes you want to reach for a pie.

The Paralympics is even worse for the ego. Amazing, body-confident people with remarkable self-belief and self-discipline, who choose to see ability where others see none, and who do not let their disabilities define who they are. Heroes, every one of them.

Symbolic ceremony 

I find there is something symbolic in the fact that the founder of the Paralympic Games, Ludwig Guttmann, was a German neurosurgeon who escapade persecution in Nazi Germany.

He found refuge in England and made a home among people who would accept difference and ultimately support his vision for the games.

During the Sydney 2000 Paralympic Games, some able-bodied competitors posed as people with learning and intellectual disabilities to earn a place, something that sadly resulted in a lengthy hiatus in the competition while selection processes were tightened.

Able-bodied people pretending to be disabled to taste success and gain recognition? Oh, the irony.

For me there will only be equal esteem when the Paralympic and the Olympic Games run simultaneously and the two competitions merge. I think Ludwig Guttmann, who died in 1980, would have approved of such a plan.

And then we would only have to feel like a total loser for two, rather than four weeks of competition. More pie anyone?


About the author

Wendy Johnson is matron in a general hospital. ‘Planet Rachael’ is an opinion column written about her daughter who has autism. The column was shortlisted for a 2015 PPA press award in the category 'Columnist of the year (business media)'.

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