In an era where equality is the buzz word, we have the incredible spectacle that is the Paralympic Games. The event that “parallels” the Olympic Games brings competitions amongst the best of the world’s best impaired athletes. The Summer Paralympic Games officially started in 1960 to support injured World War II veterans

[1]. This year in Sochi’s Winter Paralympic Games, 585 athletes (including 79 Americans) hailing from 44 countries are participating in 5 sports[2].

What is most astonishing about these Games?  The athletes. Most have amazing stories that brought them to compete, and their athleticism is an incredible thing to watch. For example, when watching the Games this year, I noticed that during a downhill skiing event, there were two racers going down the hill at once; however, they were not racing each other. The event was for visually-impaired racers who went down the mountain with a guide leading them. According to the experts, it can take years and years of practicing for the racer and guide to be comfortable and in sync with each other[3].

United States downhill skier Danielle Umstead even has her husband, Rob, as her guide. “Like teenage lovebirds, they talk continually on the course. Rob tells her to turn, warns her about changes in terrain and, for the technical events, describes the gate combinations she will encounter . . . ”[3]. It is also a nice touch that the guides, unlike coaches in say, basketball, also receive a medal if the racer they guide wins a medal.

As a sports-loving culture, we yearn for heart-felt sports stories. However, there is little national media attention given to the Paralympic Games, especially on our most popular sports-specific TV channels. The Games are shown at random times on NBC Sports Network (and never in primetime), despite the fact that the competitions involve incredible people who face incredible odds to become the amazing athletes they are.

While sports media is big business and the powers that be believe the Paralympic Games are not something the average consumer desires to watch, popular sports media outlets have the power to portray these incredible stories. Most people may not even be aware of the incredible quality of the Paralympic Games; our sports networks should take it upon themselves to at least show personal interest stories like they do during the Olympic Games. Once consumers are actually aware of the quality of these Games and the inspiring stories these athletes have, maybe then the Games might receive more interest from consumers.

[1] http://www.paralympic.org/the-ipc/history-of-the-movement
[2] http://www.paralympic.org/magazine-paralympian/february-2014
[3] http://www.nytimes.com/2014/03/09/sports/olympics/at-paralympics-visually-impaired-skiers-and-their-guides-form-a-team.html?_r=0

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