The Olympic Season Isn't Over Yet

You’ve spent the last few weeks in front of the television. From the opening ceremonies to the gymnastics floor to the pool to the volleyball courts, you’ve watched in wonder as incredible athletes from all over the world compete for gold…all from the comfort of your couch with a tub of ice cream by your side (oh the irony). But as the ceremonies ended and the athletes headed home, you felt a sense of relief that you were no longer obligated to watch sports for a while. Let’s face it, cheering for your team can be exhausting. However, the Olympic season is actually far from over. Starting September 7th, the 2016 Paralympics will be taking place in Rio. Everyone has heard of the Paralympics, but few actually watch the events. The winners are rarely highlighted on national news. There will be no medal counts on Snapchat, no daytime conversations about the previous day’s competitions. We’ve all seen the incredibly inspiring commercials featuring Simone Biles and Michael Phelps. Ryan Lochte and Gabby Douglas have become household names. So why is it that some of the most inspiring stories of success in the face of overwhelming challenge have been pushed aside? History of the Games

The Paralympic movement started in 1944 when Dr. Ludwig Guttmann opened a spinal injuries centre in Great Britain where he utilized sport as a rehabilitation method. These adapted sports evolved over time into competitive sports that began to spread regionally. During the 1948 London Olympics, Guttman held the Stoke Mandeville games which consisted solely of archery. Not long after, the first Paralympic games were held in Rome in 1960. Every four years, the winter or summer Paralympics are held shortly after the closing ceremony of the Olympics, staying true to its name: “para” stemming from the Greek stem for “beside: and highlighting how the two organizations exist together. Additionally, the organization highly values fair and equal competition. This means that no athlete is competing against an athlete whose impairments differ drastically from their own. An athlete with a visual impairment won’t compete against an athlete with cerebral palsy. The system is extremely complicated and creates levels of competition for impairments ranging from limb deficiency to intellectual impairment. Competition of the Highest Caliber 

If you think about all the things that go into creating the spectacle that is the Olympics, you think of the gear, the high-tech equipment, the regimented training and fierce competition. The Paralympics are no different. With specialized sports come specialized equipment. Wheelchairs are built with the support of companies like BMW and GE, and everything is altered to better fit the individual’s needs. Training is adapted and sports can be played in a number of different ways. If you don’t watch for the sport itself, watch for the ingenious innovation on display. And Russia is still banned from competition under the Anti-Doping Laws. Team USA 

Now it’s time for the fun part! Team USA! This year, the United States is sending 267 paralympians to Rio for round two of world domination in sports. Of the 267, 30 are military veterans or on active duty. Spanning ages 15-64 years old, team USA is competing in 20 sports. If the age range wasn’t enough, the diversity continues with a the shortest athlete being 3 feet tall and the tallest athlete measuring at 6’7. Some people to watch: sisters Tatayna and Hannah McFadden, Jennifer Poist, Alana Nichols and Dalton Herendeen. (Authors Note: Dalton was my counselor at swim camp in high school, so I will be going absolutely crazy during his races) If you don’t have time to fill your head with a whole other Olympic schedule, check out the Team USA hype videos and info sessions on Facebook. Your homework definitely seems manageable after watching them!

How to Show Your Support

Showing your support for the Paralympics is super easy. Watch the games, cheer for Team USA and you are already headed in the right direction. Spread the news, host a watch party and learn more about the organization. It’s the best way to increase coverage and promote inclusion. Feel like getting more involved? A campaign started this week, #FilltheSeats, is looking to fill the stadiums after low ticket sales were discouraging to the athletes. For 30 USD, you can buy a seat to be donated so that Brazilian children and people with impairments can watch the games in person, an incredible educational and inspirational opportunity. 

Get ready for Olympic Season round 2!


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