That Event That is More Inspirational Than the Olympics

Today the Australian Swimming Championships, doubling as the Olympic selection trials began for our prospective Olympians this morning in Adelaide. The event has been shrouded in hype, misplaced a lot of it, around former greats attempting to make a comeback at the London 2012 Olympic Games just months away. Ian Thorpe, Michael Klim, Libby Trickett and Geoff Huegill, the latter having already made a successful comeback to international competition are vying for one of two spots in each Olympic event.

But there is another selection trial going on that has been so under-reported that it is almost shrouded in secrecy because reports about it have been so sparse and that is the selection trials for our current and hopeful Paralympic athletes, those people with a disability, paid little or nothing who also perform at an elite level but are in an eclipse like shadow behind their highly paid Olympian counterparts.

These so-called Elite Athletes with a Disability, EAD for short or Athletes with a Disability (AWD) will take part in events daily over the time of the trials in both heats and finals.

It is worth explaining how the competition usually works at this event for our athletes attempting selection in the Australian Paralympic team. Athletes with a disability are broken down into different classifications according to the extent of their disability and their ability to move and are assessed by accredited classifiers into these groups.

At the trials athletes compete in heats which are usually seeded according to comparable times in each respective event. For each classification there is a world record and all athletes are effectively racing to get as close to the world record for their classification in each event. The 8 closest swimmers to a world record will then compete in the final.

In the final, the three medallists are judged in the same way as places in the final are determined. That means that the three closest people to a world record will win a gold, silver or bronze medal accordingly.

Our Paralympic athletes are extraordinary people who have had to overcome more than the usual obstacles to achieve the high level representation that they do. Unlike their Olympic friends, EAD athletes have to overcome limitations from their disability too. The wonderful thing is that Athletes with a Disability at the highest level often train the same amount as elite athletes or so-called “able-bods”, so they are training with the physical impairment to the same extent as other elite athletes.

Anyone who has been to the Paralympics as a spectator will have left with a newfound respect and admiration for the abilities and achievements of people with a disability. You will encounter swimmers from south-east Asia who have lost limbs, sometimes, double-arm amputees gliding through the water like dolphins and then at the end needing to slam their heads with substantial force into the touchpads to register a time.

You are urged to tune into the evening broadcast of the finals on the Ten Network, where if previous events are any indication, at least some of the AWD events will be broadcast over the week of competition. The London 2012 Paralympics too are a must watch from the 29th of August to the 9th of September in London to be broadcast on both ABC television and radio.

So there is nothing left to do but to get ensconced in the terrific awe-inspiring exploits of those who have it much harder in life than their “able-bodied” counterparts and manage to throw off the metaphorical chains and reach amazing heights.

About Tom Bridge

A perennial student of politics, providing commentary for money and for free. Email me at tbridgey@gmail.com or contact me on 0435 035 095 for engagements.

Posted on March 15, 2012, in A little bit of sport, Disability Issues and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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