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It’s Okay to be Inspired by Our Paralympians

The London 2012 Paralympic Games are almost over. Most races and events have been run and won. Australia has done amazingly well given the relatively small contingent of 161 athletes representing us against some of the bigger teams we are competing with. As a nation, Australia have, at the time of writing, scored a total of 25 gold, 18 silver and 26 bronze, a phenomenal haul, putting us 5th on the medal tally, happily just ahead of the United States of America. The only teams ahead of us are China way out in front, the host nation Great Britain even in gold medals with Russia but ahead on the overall count and Ukraine ahead of us by two.

At just 5:30am in the morning on the 30th of August Australian time, a total of 347,000 Australians woke up to tune into the Opening Ceremony of the London Paralympics, giving the station some of its strongest ratings ever. These relatively high viewing numbers have continued throughout the coverage of the events during the 7-11:00pm timeslot  on the ABC’s digital television station ABC2. The Paralympics have also continued to be shown on ABC1 for the finals sessions, occurring from 4am in the morning AEST.

But aside from the prolific medal-winning performances of our Paralympians in London, the biggest and most important element of the Paralympics is the effects that it is having back here at home on the Australian population.

The Paralympic Games, with such in-depth coverage give the opportunity for transformative effects on the Australian population, in particular the way in which people with a disability are viewed in Australia. All too often those with a disability are viewed by some ‘able-bods’ as having little worth and something to gawk at when we dare venture out into the community to live our lives to the best of our boundless abilities.

There’s been a lot of talk in recent times within the disability community about the word inspiration and particularly about so-called ‘inspiration porn’, that is, images of people with a disability with slogans meant to tug at the heartstrings. A lot of that has been viewed by those who have a disability with disdain.

Equally too and relevant directly to the 2012 Paralympics, words such as ‘inspirational’ and ‘amazing’ have been used to excess in describing the astonishing feats of our elite athletes with a disability. These comments again from some in the disability community have drawn equal condemnation to that which inspiration porn has attracted.

Many want our Paralympians to be seen as no different to our Olympians. They are elite sportspeople getting out of bed early and often to train to the highest level in their chosen sport. They don’t want to be seen as having done something any different to that of athletes without an impairment.

In the case of the Paralympics though, is it fair to view people commenting about the achievements of our Paralympic athletes with the kind of annoyance of that in relation to inspiration porn?

Recently, our Olympians had their shot at glory and in the early days of the Games, didn’t have as much success as was expected. But then we came good in the latter stages of the event to at least gain a respectable finish.

The superlatives flew in the final days of the competition with the strong performances we recorded, particularly in events we weren’t expected to excel in after under-performing in those we were. During the Olympic Games in London the words ‘inspirational’ and ‘extraordinary’ and just about any other superlative in existence were used to describe our Olympic athletes too.

So in this sense, we aren’t treating athletes with a disability any differently to athletes that do not. We might use a different degree of vigour in describing the efforts of our Paralympians, but for all intents and purposes they’re being referred to in exactly the same way as their Olympic counterparts.

We as Australians find our sportsmen and women inspiring. Sport is so entwined in our culture that we elevate those that show immense sporting prowess to a g0d-like status. Now that might be right or wrong, but that’s what happens and that is now happening to a similar extent with the broader commentary that our Paralympic athletes have been subjected to since the London Paralympics began.

That doesn’t mean that the occasional over-enthusiastic labelling of a Paralympian’s effort hasn’t occurred during the coverage of the Paralympic Games. It probably has. But is this automatically a bad thing?

Disability in Australia, as mentioned earlier, is not viewed as favourably and treated as equally as it is in particularly European countries and in the UK as anecdotal evidence has shown over the past week and a bit. So any change in the Australian mindset that results from this more in-depth broadcasting of the most elite of disabled sporting events should be viewed as a positive.

The fact  that our Paralympic athletes are now being referred to as inspirational and amazing signals at least a small shift in the perceptions of disability and it would be great if this continued to pervade the Australian political, social and cultural discourse.

It shouldn’t particularly matter how the minds of Australians are changed when viewing disability, providing that people aren’t condescending pricks when they talk to or about someone with a disability, what should matter is that the change itself is occurring.

So let’s embrace the inspirational, amazing, fantastic exploits of our Paralympic heroes, perhaps then, through maintained or increased exposure, we’ll begin to experience the change in thinking that we want to see.

My Top Moments of the Paralympic Games So Far

The London 2012 Paralympic Games are now more than half done for another year. There have been a number of sensational performances including proimising results from up and coming competitors in the Paralympic arena. Australia stands fourth in the medal tally with 16 gold, thirteen silver and 19 bronze, behind China in 1st on 46 gold, Great Britain in 2nd on 19 and Russia in 3rd with 16 gold like Australia, but more silver. We look almost set for a top 5 finish which is excellent given the stiff competition we’ve faced, but we are certain to finish top 7 with Germany having to make up a significant gap without Australia winning anymore gold just to be on even terms.

The first amazing performance is actually an amazing effort across a number of events. Maddison Elliott in the Australian swimming team is competing in her first Paralympic Games and that’s just as well, given that she’s just 13 years old. The up and coming swimmer from the Hunter Valley has just claimed her first ever Paralympic gold medal as a part of the women’s 4x100m combined 34 point relay overnight London time. This comes after Maddison became the youngest ever Paralympic silver medallist and earlier claimed a bronze medal in the pool.

The next amazing moment comes from the relatively well-known three-time Paralympian, Matthew Cowdrey, for whom history beckons as the greatest ever Paralympian Australia has produced. Matthew Cowdrey yesterday equalled that mark in the men’s combined 34 point 4x100m freestyle relay, moving to 10 gold medals.

Next up, who could go past Jacqueline Freney who is the single biggest medal winner of any competitor at these 2012 Paralympics. The competitor from the S7 and SM 7 classification was the anchor leg of the women’s combined 34 point 4x100m freestyle relay and also just won gold in the 10om freestyle for her class.

Finally, to the most talked about and debated upset of the 2012 Paralympics. Yes, just about everyone on the planet has heard about it, Oscar Pistorius being beaten into 2nd in the T44 200m at the track. The hot favourite was beaten by Brazilian Alan Oliveira in the closing stages of the race with the relative unknown eclipsing the almost unbackable Pistorius. Immediately Oscar Pistorius questioned the win when interviewed for television and the win has sent the sporting world into a frenzied debate again over the use of the prosthetic blades.

Those are just four of the most interesting, exhilarating, inspiring and in the case of the last example, controversial moments. But there are still 6 days left which promise to bring more amazing performances including, hopefully from our wheelchair basketball teams, the wheelchair rugby team. Expect more gold medal exploits in the pool too, perhaps with Matt Cowdrey eclipsing Tim Sullivan’s combined Paralympic gold medal haul across his career. With that much time left, there is still plenty of opportunities for more gold, silver and bronze.

How About We Let the Sport do the Talking?

The London 2012 Paralympic Games are here, they’re finally here. The biggest ever Paralympic Games have returned to land of their spiritual birthplace, England. Over 4000 athletes have converged on the Paralympic Village, ready to compete across 21 sports, some everyday sports and some  adapted especially for athletes with a disability. This Paralympic Games has also seen the most number of tickets sold for the entire event, with 2.4 of 2.5 million tickets snapped up by sports mad people from the United Kingdom and around the world.

The television coverage domestically has also promised to be huge. The Australian Broadcasting Corporation, the perennial broadcast partner for the Paralympic Games again won the right to broadcast the event from start to finish. The ABC coverage of this year’s Paralympics has been much talked about. With the advent of digital television and the subsequent new channels allowing for greater coverage of this important sporting exhibition, more coverage, much more was promised.

Across two channels, the ABC have begun broadcasting a total of nine and a half hours daily from the Paralympic Games. This is a big shift from years previous when a highlights show and some radio commentary were the stock standard fare and the Australian Broadcasting Corporation should be congratulated for committing to such widespread coverage and the fact that the exposure of the Games is heading in the right direction, up.

Aside from the opening ceremony, which was brilliantly- read minimally narrated and impressively broadcast to the Australian people, the televising of the actual sporting prowess of our Paralympic athletes began right as the competition started.

That broadcast was headed in the studio by Stephanie Brantz, no stranger to sports commentary, as well as being co-hosted by comedian Lawrence Mooney, actor Adam Zwar and Sam Pang. Guests joined the hosts throughout four and a half hours of coverage on the ABC’s digital television channel.

A number of the finest voices of ABC Grandstand and ABC Radio  were stationed at the sporting venues across London, ready to bring the action to a curious Australian audience to a magnitude never seen before in this country.

If there was a failure of the coverage last night, it was that there was too much talk and not enough action. The stars of the Paralympics are supposed to be the athletes who’ve put in massive effort over the years and overcome more adversity than most people will ever encounter.

Instead, for much of the night, we were made familiar with the comedic exploits in particular of Lawrence Mooney and Adam Zwar, but also Sam Pang, who’ve been in the United Kingdom for some time already. The chat was interweaved with numerous introductions to the Australian team and some of its members individually, but that would ideally have taken place while there was little or no sport on, say between 6 and 7pm last night.

Oh and another thing. The only thing “live” about most of the coverage last night and yes the website says it was supposed to be live, is that the commentators were broadcasting live from London. Very little of the sport appeared live amid all the chin-wagging back in the studio. At one point the swimming heats went from one of the later heats in one event, directly to the second heat of presumably the next event. I’m sorry, but to me live coverage means footage of the actual competition is beamed to our televisions instantaneously,  not people sitting around in a studio talking about the sports we want to see as viewers.

As an indication of just how wrong they got it with the coverage last night, Twitter was abuzz with comments lamenting the lack of athletic action being displayed on televisions around Australia. One person even remarked to me that they were so disappointed they felt that switching off after a while was the only answer.

So here’s a radical thought: more sport and less talk. We know the c0-hosts are funny or at least try to be. But they’re not why we as viewers are tuning in. We want to see sporting genius, we want to share the joy of stellar efforts in the pool, on the road, the track and the other arenas. If we wanted a laugh we’d go to their gigs. To steal a line from Elvis and alter it just a bit, a little less conversation, a little more sporting action please.

There’s One Sporting Team to Come That Won’t Need a Performance Review Nor Extra Funding to Outstrip our Olympic Team

There’s just under three weeks to go until another massive sporting event begins in London. The 2012 Paralympic Games return to the spiritual birthplace of the Paralympic movement. Australia is traditionally very strong at the Paralympic Games compared to the Olympics, with medal tallies often outstripping that of our Olympians. Some will put that down to the extra events which are necessary to accommodate the varying levels of disability. Others, like me will say that has nothing to do with it, each respective athlete still has to be able to perform on the day.

One of the strongest sports at the Paralympics for Australia, if not the strongest, is traditionally the swimming, just like it is with that other competition they call the Olympics.

Unlike the Olympic counterparts, the Australian Paralympic Swimming team are unlikely to need a soul-searching performance review complete with navel-gazing to determine what went wrong with their campaign.

There’s likely to be a gold rush to rival Victoria in the 1800’s as I’ve written before. Our collective medal haul in the pool alone, if melted down, would likely save Spain and Greece from the ignominy of default. Okay, maybe I’m embellishing just a little bit, but nonetheless our performance in the pool alone at the Paralympics is a real possibility of eclipsing the overall gold medal tally of our Olympic team which currently stands at 5 golds.

And all that before factoring in the strong possibilities of gold medals in other sports for Australia at the London Paralympics.

Our athletics team which has not under-performed by any means in the past is likely to again bring home medals, some of them gold, but also silver and bronze.

With people like relatively well-known Paralympian Kurt Fearnley competing again in London we’re sure to make a strong showing. The three time gold medallist will line up for his third Paralympic Games in an attempt to win gold in the 800m, 1500m and the marathon which Kurt has made his own.

Other track and field athletes to look out for at the Paralympics include Kelly Cartwright who broke the long jump world record for her classification in 2011 and then earlier this year broke both the 100m and 200m world records in her class. Then there’s Evan O’Hanlon who broke his own world record this year in the 100m, Jessica Gallagher who’s competed in the Winter Paralympics before and medalled in the sport and up and comers some of whom will be in with a real shot of a medal.

Then you have the wheelchair basketball with the Australian men’s team, the Rollers the defending champions from Beijing who are sure to again push the USA, Canada and the home team Great Britain for another gold medal. Not to be outdone, the women’s team who received bronze at the Paralympic Games in China will also be a good chance of another medal.

Australia also has a great chance in the wheelchair rugby, popularly known as ‘murderball’ for the rough nature of the game. The Australian team, with superstar Ryley Batt, will want to go one better on their effort at the Chinese games and win back the gold which the team won at Sydney in 2000.

Those sports alone, chiefly swimming and athletics, should easily see the gold medal tally go into double figures before sports like cycling, equestrian, powerlifting, sailing and more.

We’ll be up against it with the British hosts having plunged an astronomic amount into funding for both Paralympic and Olympic athletes, but any review won’t be raising depressing concerns about the performance of our Paralympic athletes.

It’s time to get excited Australia, with nine and a half hours of live television coverage daily to keep you happy and up to date with our teams’ exploits.

Wheelchair Basketball: A Great Paralympic Sport

Time for another lesson in sports that will be a part of the 2012 Paralympic Games in London just 86 days. This time it’s the fast-paced, exciting and skillful game of Wheelchair Basketball.

Wheelchair Basketball is one of the most-watched sports for the disabled and also has one of the highest participation rates worldwide (there are 82 national organisations for the sport worldwide)

HOW PLAYERS ARE CLASSIFIED

In order to be able to play in national and international competitions players are classified on a scale of 1.0-4.5 points with the lower numbers applying to the least functional athletes and the higher numbers to the least impaired athletes.

A team with a total classification point score of no more than 14 is allowed on court at any one time.

PLAYERS 

Each team can have up to 12 players with a total of 5 playing on-court at any one time.

THE PLAYING ARENA

One of the amazing things about the sport of Wheelchair Basketball is that it is played on exactly the same-sized court as Basketball for the “able-bods”. The court consists of all the same dimensions from the 3 point line to the height of the hoop and the backboard.

DURATION OF THE GAME

The game consists of four 10 minute quarters with a 15 minute half-time break and 2 minutes between every other quarter.

THE RULES

Play in Wheelchair Basketball is almost identical to that in Basketball with play beginning from the centre of the court with the ball being tossed up by a match official.

The team in possession has 24 seconds to push forward and attempt to score before possession is turned over.

A free-throw is worth 1 point, there is 2 points for a shot outside the field shot zone and 3 points for a shot outside the 3 point area.

The “travelling” rule is invoked when a player touches his or her wheels more than twice after receiving or dribbling the ball. The player must pass, bounce or shoot the ball before touching the wheels again.

An offensive player cannot be in the free-throw lane more than 3 seconds in possession of the ball.

The wheelchair is considered part of the player so it may be used to block a player.

A technical foul has been deemed to have occurred if a player attempts to lift out of their chair and otherwise similar foul rules apply as with Basketball.

DEFENDING CHAMPIONS FROM THE 2008 PARALYMPICS

In the men’s draw the Australian team, known as the Rollers are the defending champions and in the women’s draw the USA are dual-defending Paralympic champions as well as world champions.

A LOOK AT THE GAME

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pfB2BynBv2k&feature=related

Time to Learn About Sitting Volleyball

With the 2012 London Paralympics getting ever closer by the day and the weekend fast approaching us it’s time to have a look at another sport that will feature at the Paralympics.

This week we take a look at the sport of Sitting Volleyball.

This variation of Volleyball has been a part of the Summer Paralympics since the event in 1980 held in the Netherlands where it was first introduced into the competitive schedule for men. Women’s Sitting Volleyball took a little longer (two decades in fact) before it was introduced at the 2004 Paralympic Games in Athens.

WHO CAN PLAY?

Unlike many other sports for people with a disability, the sport does not classify athletes in a variety of different groupings according to physical disability. Instead, participants in the sport must meet minimal disability requirements as identified by one or more medical practitioners who are sanctioned to determine the level of disability that potential athletes have.

The disability must be permanent and it can include amputees, people with spinal cord injuries, Cerebral Palsy and les autres (‘the others’), that is, people that do not have a disability that fits into other identified categories of impairment.

When classified, participants are either deemed to have one of two levels of disability, either classified as disability (D) or minimal disability (MD). Only two people classified as having minimal disability are allowed in a team.

ON THE COURT

Sitting Volleyball is played between two teams where there are no more than 6 players on the court at any time and no more than 12 are in the entire team.

Each team is only permitted to have one of their two players classed as having minimal disability on the court at any one time.

The players must all sit on the modified Volleyball court where among other things the net is at a lower level (1.15m for men and 1.05m for women), the court is smaller.

The game is commenced like it’s counterpart with a serve.

Front-row players are allowed to block a serve.

Front-row players must have their pelvis in contact with the floor

Defensive players can assist in an attacking move but cannot cross or touch what is known as the attacking line with their pelvis.

Defensive players in attempting to stop a ball from bouncing in their side of the court are allowed to temporarily lift up off the court past the regular pelvis rule.

The ball can only be touched 3 times before it must go over the net into your opponent’s court.

The game at the Paralympic level has an added special player called a ‘libero player’. This team member is a special defensive player who can be “subbed on” during a stop in play to replace a person on the back court. They are identified because they must wear a different coloured uniform to the rest of the team.

HOW TO WIN

The game is best of 5 sets with the first 4 sets requiring 25 points to win and the final set a score of 15 to triumph.

DEFENDING CHAMPIONS

In the men’s competition the defending champion from the 2008 Paralympic Games in Beijing is Iran and in the women’s draw the winner and defending champion from Beijing was the home team, China.

A VIDEO OF THE GAME

Here is a YouTube link showing the fast-paced game that is Sitting Volleyball:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wxp3kIvgT_o

A Look at the Sport of Goalball

With the London Paralympics nearing commencement it’s time to have a look at another of the 21 sports that will be a part of the 2012 Games. After taking a look at the rough and tumble of Wheelchair Rugby, otherwise known as ‘Murderball’ it’s time for a change of pace and time to look at the rather unique sport of Goalball.

THE PARTICIPANTS:

Goalball is a sport for vision-impaired athletes that was developed to help blind World War II veterans in their post-war rehabilitation. It became a Paralympic sport at the 1980 Paralympics after being a demonstration event at the 1976 event.

A game of Goalball consists of two teams of 3 visually impaired athletes, with one centre player and two wingers on each team. Three substitutes are also permitted.

The athletes with a lower level of blindness wear blindfolds when competing in the sport which allows for less visually impaired athletes to compete in the sport with people that have a higher level of blindness.

THE GAME ITSELF:

The game is played by the teams participating taking turns at rolling or throwing a ball that has a bell in it toward their opponents goal with the aim of the defensive team being to block the ball, by listening to where the bell sound is coming, from going into the goal at their respective end of the field.

The players must throw the ball within 1o seconds or an infraction has occurred.

The game has two 10 minute halves.

PENALTIES:

Possession is generally lost if a player throws the ball before the match official has indicated for play to begin, if the ball goes over the sideline, or the ball rebounds off a defending player, crossbar or goalposts and goes back over the centre line.

For more serious rule breaches a penalty throw is awarded if:

  • Players interfere with their eyeshades
  • Excessive noise is created which distracts from the ability to hear the bell in the ball
  • If coaching comes from the benches after the referee has said “quite please”
  • The ball does lands short of the opponents court, too long or too high
  • Not being in team area when defending your goal line
  • Delaying the game in a deliberate manner
  • If the same player throws the ball for a 3rd time in a row
  • For conduct against the spirit of the sport

When a penalty is awarded only one defender is allowed on the court, effectively like a football goalkeeper during a penalty shootout.

THE DEFENDING CHAMPIONS:

At the 2008 Paralympic Games in Beijing, the women’s Goalball final was won by the United States of America in a very tight match with the USA prevailing over host nation China 6-5.

The men’s gold medal match was won by the Chinese team over Lithuania after being two goals down with less than a minute to go in the game, closing the gap and winning by one in the end.

The bronze medal was won in the men’s competition by the Swedish team and by the Danish team in the women’s event.

Wheelchair Rugby: ‘Murderball’ Explained

With just 96 days to go until the London 2012 Paralympics, it’s time to start taking a look at how some of the sports that are unique to a Paralympic Games are played. The first in this series is Wheelchair Rugby (Quad Rugby in the USA) also colloquially referred to in the biz as ‘Murderball’ because of the rough and vigorous nature of the game where injuries like broken digits are not uncommon.

The sport was also made famous with a documentary named Murderball made about the sport.

The current world number one team (as at 11 November, 2011) in the sport of Wheelchair Rugby is the United States of America, who are also the reigning Paralympic and world champions looking to defend their title and ranking in just a matter of months in London. They are closely followed  by Australia in second place on the list and Japan in third, with Sweden and Canada rounding out the top 5 sides in the world.

ELIGIBILITY:

Players must have a functional impairment of both the arms and legs to form a part of a team in the sport. The most common cohort in the game are those with spinal cord injuries, but people with multiple amputations and neurological disabilities like Cerebral Palsy also qualify to play.

Players are given a classification based on functional ability between 0.5 and 3.5 with the former being the higher end of physical impairment and 3.5 being the highest level of physical ability.

THE TEAM:

There can be up to 12 players in a team with 4 players on the court at any one time. These 4 players must have a combined classification total of no more than 8 points at any time.

THE PLAYING FIELD:

Murderball is played indoors on a basketball court. Instead of the basketball key area an 8 metre wide and 1.75 metre deep forms a goal area with cones marking the dimensions. The end line is the goal line.

THE BALL:

The sport is played with a regulation size volleyball that must be 280 grams and white in colour.

THE RULES OF THE GAME:

Play starts in the back court of the player whose team is in possession of the ball. The player in possession of the ball must advance the ball into their opposition’s half within 12 seconds.

Players must pass or bounce the ball every 10 seconds in any manner necessary.

A team has a total of 40 seconds to score a point or must give up possession of the ball and the attacking team cannot be in the key area with the ball for more than 10 seconds without scoring.

The defensive team is not permitted to have any more than 3 players in the key defending their line at any one time.

In defending their line, the team can attack the player in any manner aside from attacking a player from behind or physically interfering with another person.

Defensive fouls are remedied with a 1 minute penalty and offensive fouls lead to a loss of possession.

The clock is stopped and possession reversed if the ball goes out of bounds.

When the player in possession of the ball has two wheels over the end line a goal has been scored.

100 Days to Go, But What’s the Paralympics All About?

Today marks just 100 days until the event the world will be watching, no not those games starting with ‘O’ and ending in ‘pic’, but the widely known about and often reported on Paralympic Games- well, this is true in an ideal world anyway. From the 29th of August until the 9th of September the London 2012 Paralympic Games will take place in the shadow of the Olympic Games which will have ceased just a short period of time prior to the commencement of the Paralympics. 

Little is known or reported about the Paralympic Games, so what’s it all about?

THE COMPETITORS:

The Paralympic Games are open to competitors with a physical disability, including those who are visually impaired or deaf. The Paralympic Games have also included athletes with an intellectual impairment in both the 1996 and 2000 Paralympics, but these participants were excluded from both the 2004 and 2008 Paralympic Games after cheating on the part of the Spanish team particularly in the intellectually disabled basketball team. These athletes will return to the Paralympic Games in London for the first time since the Sydney 2000 Paralympics.

The London Paralympics will be the biggest to be held so far with approximately 4,200 athletes from 165 countries participating in the event and 16 of those nations will be competing for the first time in London.

THE SPORTS:

The 4,200 athletes participating will compete in a total of 21 different sports, with the majority of sports included in the Paralympics also featured as Olympic sports save for some modifications to cater for differing levels of impairment.

This year athletes will compete in:

  • Archery
  • Athletics
  • Boccia
  • Track and Road Cycling
  • Equestrian
  • Football
  • Goalball
  • Judo
  • Powerlifting
  • Rowing
  • Sailing
  • Shooting
  • Swimming
  • Table Tennis
  • Sitting Volleyball
  • Wheelchair Basketball
  • Wheelchair Fencing
  • Wheelchair Rugby
  • Wheelchair Tennis

The sports that are unique to the Paralympics are:

  • Boccia, which is similar to Bocce
  • Goalball which is similar to European Handball for visually impaired participants    
  • Powerlifting which is Weightlifting but performed different for participants with a higher level of physical impairment 
  • Sitting Volleyball which is similar to regular Indoor Volleyball, but performed seated on the court
  • Wheelchair Basketball which is similar to Basketball but undertaken in a wheelchair
  • Wheelchair Fencing which is like regular Fencing but for people in a wheelchair
  • Wheelchair Rugby which is also know as “Murderball” and involves similar play to the multiple forms of rugby but is performed indoors 
  • Wheelchair Tennis which is like Tennis but competitors play in a wheelchair

The Australian team is expected to do well, particularly, as has been the case historically, in swimming, athletics, wheelchair rugby and wheelchair basketball where medal prospects are traditionally very strong.

One of the best sports to watch is the swimming which sees people with a range of impairments competing in classifications with people who have similar abilities and compete in the same manner as those in the Olympics. It is amazing to see double arm amputees finish the race head first on the touch pads.

Wheelchair Rugby or “Murderball” is one of the most spectacular sports to observe that involves people in a wheelchair. This sport sees players with specially designed wheelchairs with heavy duty protection play in much the same way as rugby players but by “tackling” each other by careering into their opponents wheelchair when they are in possession of the ball. The objective, like in the rugby codes is to get the ball over a line.

Wheelchair Basketball is another brilliant sport and very similar in sheer physicality to Wheelchair Rugby and as mentioned previously is practically identical to everyday Basketball but with the added difficulty of shooting for baskets from a sitting position in a wheelchair.

BROADCASTING OF THE PARALYMPIC GAMES

The Paralympics will again be broadcast on television and radio by the Australian Broadcasting Corporation who have been a strong supporter of the Paralympics and broadcast over 120 hours of content from the previous Paralympics in Beijing in 2008. There will be some live coverage and some highlights packages as there has been previously.

Both the opening and closing ceremony will also be televised by the national broadcaster.

SO THERE’S THE BACKGROUND

So with just 100 days to go before the London 2012 Paralympic Games commence, you now have a bit of a background (presuming you didn’t prior to reading) of just what the Paralympics are about and why they are so amazing and hopefully a million more reasons to take an interest and watch or listen to some phenomenal sporting performances of the highest level.

Fischer an Inspired Choice as Patron of NDIS Lobby Group

The National Disability Insurance Scheme, NDIS for short is the most promising policy idea relating to disability in some time, perhaps ever. It’s something that needs to happen, should happen and where politics needs to be put aside and has been. It’s a long-term project, meaning much time to prepare it well, but equally and with the history of the Gillard Government as much time for it to fail. The policy idea desperately needs the big guns of politics and society, past and present to keep their collective eye’s on the ball to turn this great idea into a political reality.

Today the NDIS lobby group, Every Australian Counts, headed by former NSW government MP John Della Bosca made a wonderful choice, naming former Deputy Prime Minister Tim Fischer from early in the Howard era the campaign patron.

Tim Fischer, like many parents in Australia knows just how hard the lives of people with a disability can be. He left politics, citing as a reason the need for he and his family to focus on the demands of helping out their son, Harrison who has autism.

Mr Fischer has been a long-term advocate of doing more for people with a disability whilst in public life and post politics, involving himself in the disability cause with different organisations in the field.

As someone with a disability I have had the opportunity of witnessing just how committed the former Deputy Prime Minister is toward improving the lives of people with a disability and how interested he is in hearing the stories of people with a disability.

When I competed at the Sydney 2000 Paralympic Games the man himself was the Mayor of the Paralympic Village. I will never forget seeing him moving around the village, that trademark hat adorning his head, welcoming athletes and team staff from around the world, shaking their hands and having a bit of a chat to as many people as possible on his journey’s around the athlete precinct.

Often on my trips to the dining hall I would encounter the sight of him sitting down with athletes, Australian or otherwise sharing a conversation with many of the mass of athletes that gathered in Sydney to compete at the 2000 Paralympics. Indeed, I even had the opportunity, sitting with a group of athletes when the Howard Government Minister came to say hello.

Far from the obvious benefits of having someone whose experience with disability is both close and personal, the political benefits of having a former MP, diametrically opposed to the Government which has proposed the scheme is a very important factor.

It is important position, both to keep the Gillard Government honest with fierce, but diplomatic advocacy on behalf of the Every Australian Counts group, a skill honed overseas, as much as it is t0 keep the Coalition honest and on track with its’ commitment to bipartisanship on this most important reform. This is particularly important when the Abbott-led Coalition seems closer and closer to taking the reins of government at the next federal election with implementation and commencement possibly occurring somewhere in what could be a second term of a Coalition Government.

This policy at present is still just really a thought and no money has yet to be committed to the implementation of the actual scheme, though rumours abound that there will be an allocation of sorts outlined in the forthcoming budget, just weeks away on May 8th.

Having Tim Fischer in the role of patron for the campaign, starting in earnest with the rallies next Monday in capital cities around Australia is a big step forward in the campaign and will help to keep the campaign on track from political idea at present, to reality.

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