We’ve won 56 medals, so why does nobody care about the Paralympics?

It’s still elite sport

So far, GB are doing ridiculously well in the Paralympics. If you’ve been watching you’ll know we’ve won 56 medals, and last weekend we even got three golds in just nine minutes. So why does nobody seem to care?

Considering it’s in front of us every day on one of our biggest TV Channels, it’s not given much attention. There’s not the same sense of pride we normally have with the Olympics, or the same conversation around it.

During the Olympics, we go through Mo-mania, Ennis-body-envy, and Whitlock-wonder. All we can discuss is how many golds the British Cycling Team won, Usain Bolt’s mid-race grin, Adam Peaty’s eight pack and obviously the biggest talking point of the two weeks was Louis Smith’s man bun. Yet as soon as the closing ceremony has showcased the next hosts, we seem to switch off from sports and head straight for the Bake Off tent.

General consensus from watching the Olympics, wherever it may be held, is that there is suddenly a great sense of patriotism and nothing but admiration for the hard work of those elite athletes, and though many people do say the same after tuning into the Paralympics it is a much smaller audience than that of the Olympic audience. Is it down to the lack of funding for the Paralympics? Is it the ad breaks every three minutes on Channel 4? Or are we just simply all sported-out? One thing is for sure: it certainly cannot be due to the lack of desire and effort of the athletes involved.

It’s still an elite sport. Elite sportsmen and women are usually imagined as the picture of health with the slim and toned athletic physique, muscles in every place possible and Action Man’s torso painted on them. Paralympians defy this image. They show us that even without arms you can still swim the 50m butterfly under 13 seconds, you can be born without legs and still be the greatest para-powerlifter there is, or that you can still be a golden cyclist after suffering a stroke less than four years ago.

The great prejudice of the Paralympics is that it’s not all proper sports – anyone else call bull shit? Every sport is as much a real sport as all of the sports in the Olympics. Every individual involved is as much an athlete as the Olympic athletes. Each athlete has to spend at least 30 hours a week in training for their respective sport and make sacrifices in all other aspects of their life in order to make it with the best of the rest.

The backstories behind the athletes are worthy of conversation too. Megan Giglia unfortunately suffered a stroke at the start of 2013 at the age of 27, now she is a Paralympic gold medal track cyclist in Rio 2016. When asked if she watched the London 2012 Paralympics, Giglia said she doesn’t remember any of 2012 due to her brain haemorrhage. Kadeena Cox, who suffers with multiple sclerosis after having a stroke at the age of 23, became the first Paralympic GB athlete to win two medals in two different events at the same Paralympics since 1988. Sophie Christensen, a five-time gold medalist in equestrian has previously stated that her job in Goldman Sachs is “a holiday” in comparison to the training involved for her sport.

And then there was the opening ceremony. Upon the announcement there would be extremely minimal funding for the Rio 2016 Paralympics there was absolute uproar for the lack of due care and attention paid by committee members. Flash-forward to a month later and it appears that much of the nation is showing a lack of due care and attention to the games itself. If the Paralympics was to be shown prior to the Olympics, if it had equal funding and if the Paralympic athletes were as much social superstars are the Olympic athletes are, would we care more then?

Any sporting dominance can “inspire a generation”(shout out to London 2012 for that little gem), and let that be no different for the Paralympics. Why shouldn’t we jump off our sofas when Sarah Storey breaks another world record, or when Jonnie Peacock retains his gold medal in the men’s 100m, even when Jody Cundy is the latest reason for poorly singing along to the national anthem? Even if you believe certain Paralympic athletes aren’t a fair representation of your case, that’s fine – I wouldn’t say that Laura Trott is the real representation of any able-bodied athlete because her sheer talent is unrivalled. That’s what is just so incredible about any athlete, because they remind us everyone has their own struggles to overcome and that we should respect and admire their talent despite their background.