Algerian Runner Abdellatif Baka won the 1500 metre race at the Paralympics in Rio, winning at 3:38:29 and beating out the 1500 metre Olympic world record. By all means, the world should be buzzing over the accomplishment and instead the response has been…underwhelming.
It is well known that the Paralympics get less attention than the Olympics, but it is disappointing that even in a modern age of near-obsessive global media attention that people are not paying attention to this event. Baka competed in the 1500m T13 race, which is ranked as the highest visually-impaired race in the running category, though the competitors are still considered legally blind. The T12 and T11 races are made for competitors that are further visually-impaired and this standard applies to other sports in the Paralympics as well.
Baka’s success in the 1500m dash demonstrates that sight is not a necessity for speed. Each of the competitors are able to tell where the other runners are while competing at top speed. It takes a phenomenal sense of control and awareness, reminding me of the powerful superhero Daredevil. This comic book character develops other ways to make up for his loss of sight, which actually makes him a stronger human in a lot of ways. It appears that Baka setting a gold record above and beyond Olympic athletes shows there are many ways to be a top competitive athlete.
The Paralympics are the second largest sports event in the world after the Olympics, but is given much less attention by the media. When trying to watch scheduled events, the Paralympics website kept crashing and limited information of the gathering was available. In comparison, there is a plethora of materials available for the Olympics. Admittedly, the Paralympics was developed many years after the Olympics, but has still been in existence since 1960. The Games showcase athletes of similar speed, strength, and skill — yet, no one is live-streaming the Paralympics at work. Why not?
Originally the Paralympics was founded by an English doctor named Dr. Ludwig Guttmann. He created the 1948 International Wheelchair Games when the Olympics were being held in London that same year. His goal was to develop sports therapy for soldiers that were injured during World War II. The first Paralympics was held in Italy 12 years later and has continued since. It has five classifications of athletes including people with visual impairment, physical disabilities, amputee athletes, people who have cerebral palsy and spinal cord issues and Les Autres for people with other physical disabilities that aren’t listed.
The Paralympic games have grown into a diverse event featuring several sports. The athletes are top caliber and train to dominate in their competition. If you haven’t checked out the “Paratough” website — whose catch phrase asks “are you tough enough to keep up with Canada’s Paralympic team?” — you would see how hard these athletes work to compete in these Games. I know I wouldn’t be able to keep up! It is truly incredible to see these athletes in action and watch people overcome difficulty through the true mastery of their bodies.
The Paralympics are almost over, so tune in before it’s too late and cheer on our Canadian athletes.