It is day six of the Paralympics in Whistler, B.C. and the Canadian athletes are holding there own, ranking in third place with a total count of two gold medals, three silvers and two bronze. The stories coming out of these games are inspiring accounts of individuals who overcome tremendous adversity to accomplish more than even the average person can. I mean, I can barely stay up on a snowboard for more than 20 seconds and recently Brian McKeever, a blind skier, won a gold medal in cross-country skiing, and Canadian skier Lauren Woolstencrof, a woman born without legs below her knees or a left arm, just added a fourth gold medal to her collection.
The other day at Salt + Light, a few of our team were discussing our guilt over knowing much less about Paralympics stats than those of the recent Olympics. So this got me thinking: why don’t we as viewers invest as much an interest in the Paralympics? Is it because we’ve had our Olympic fill, or are we simply interested in the feats of the alpha males and females that set new world records every four years? We are obviously touched by stories of human adversity, demonstrated in our support as viewers for Joannie Rochette after the loss of her mother.
So why don’t the touching stories of the Paralympic athletes reach our eyes and ears to such a widespread degree? I won’t come down on the media again, as I did in my last Olympic blog
. After all, it’s thanks to media coverage that I’ve read so many miraculous things about these athletes, things that deepen my faith and at the same time make me grateful and humble for my own blessings in life. The Paralympics are truly a celebration of life and the refusal to submit to the limits set by physical impairment. The Paralympic athletes are models for us all.
The ad campaign designed by the Canadian Paralympic Committee really says it all: these athletes are not looking for sympathy, but the opportunity to showcase what they can achieve. In two print ads, athletes pose with a confident demeanor that declares that
they are just as determined as any athlete without a handicap. The images don’t inspire empathy; they evoke strength. I really love the slogan the campaign uses for the image of sledge hockey player Ray Grassi that proclaims “Standing on the Podium is Overrated”, and another that says “Sometimes you have to look down to find someone to look up to.”
Maybe I’m more enthusiastic about the Paralympics than I was about the Olympics because I see so many more positive aspects and outcomes brought about by it. Sure, the spirit of competition exists, but here it is more about celebrating these athletes for competing in the Games and emphasizing that, despite their handicaps, they are performing better than most able-bodied individuals.
Whereas I observed the Olympics as primarily focusing on the achievements of athletes, I saw the aim of the Paralympics to inspire all to rise to their full potential much more clearly. Henry Storgaard, CEO of the Paralympics Committee, said that these ads “demonstrate the fact that you can achieve something great, that nothing is impossible.” I find the motto of the Paralympics to be very fitting: Spirit in Motion
. There is the spirit within each and every one of us to commit ourselves to great endeavors. For us Catholics, we can apply this motto to ourselves -- as the Holy Spirit
can help each of us commit ourselves to great endeavours!
Let us all pray for the Paralympic athletes during the Games so that they may continue to find the strength to do the incredible things they are doing.