As Canada prepares to host the world’s best, Vancouver 2010, The Globe and Mail, and the University of British Columbia in collaboration with universities across Canada, are partnering on a unique project inviting the public to flex their intellect via podcasts by some of the country’s best minds on topics related to the 2010 Winter Games.
My podcast is live
Who will be the future Olympic and Paralympic athlete? The impact of advances in science and technology and bodily assistive devices on Sport.
American athlete Aimee Mullins has been a guest editor over at Gizmodo recently, and her “Racing on Carbon Fibre Legs” is worth a read on Cheetah legs, Pistorius, an ableism. Amongst the things of interest are:
As of yet, the best prosthetic available is not as efficient and not as capable as what Mother Nature gives us — or, what she was supposed to give me and South African sprinter Oscar Pistorius. The revolutionary design of the woven carbon-fibre Cheetah Leg, nicknamed for its design inspiration, has been in existence for nearly 15 years — and after my initial triumphs with them in the mid 1990s, it has been the leg of choice for nearly all elite amputee sprinters. But in one instant, after Pistorius entered a summer 2007 track meet in Rome and placed second in a field of runners possessing flesh and bone legs, he and I were deemed too abled.
The 2009 Speedo CAN-AM Para Swimming Championships are being held July 30-31, Aug 1 at the Kinsmen Sports Centre, Edmonton, AB. Heats: 9:30 am – 12 pm; Finals: 4:30 pm – 8:30 pm. Swimmers with a broad range of disabilities (functional, visual, and intellectual) will be attending from Canada, the United States, Australia, and Nigeria. For more information on the competition check here.
(This news story originally appeared on the Wired blog, with credit to be given to BA Haller over at the Media and Disability blog.)
Snapshot of Beijing subway station with a train in the station. In the foreground, the viewer sees a wheelchair symbol on the platform indicating an accessible entrance and exit. ST
In what may be the most significant improvement in human rights brought about by the 2008 Olympics and Paralympics, Beijing has become less of a Forbidden City for the disabled. Even though more than one million disabled people live within its city limits, Beijing’s crowded subway was practically inaccessible to anyone not able to rush to the front of the platform on their own two feet. Now, according to the official Chinese government information site china.org.cn, the improvements made in preparation for the Games will become permanent, allowing disabled riders to travel without barriers.
“I can’t believe this is true. Three hours ago I was at home, and now I’m here with all these others watching Paralympic Games competitions,” randomly-selected wheelchair-bound Beijing citizen Wang Shufen said. “The volunteers and subway and bus workers were really helpful. Without them, I would never have made it.” Of course, China.org.cn made sure to note that the 70-year-old Wang was smiling all through her interview, and never mentioned whether she lived ten feet or ten miles from the stadium. Still, for a city that banned the country’s few guide dogs and disqualified the disabled from entrance to many schools, any effort to open the city’s transit infrastructure to the disabled is a welcome change.
With both hands raised and signalling “V” for victory, Canada’s Valerie Grand’Maison celebrates her win in the women’s 100-metre freestyle at the Beijing Paralympics on Wednesday Sept 10, 2008. It was her third gold medal of the Games.
The Star.com/Toronto Star
September 11, 2008
BEIJING–Swimmer Valerie Grand’Maison picked up her third gold medal of the Paralympic Games yesterday by breaking her world record in the women’s 100-metre freestyle for the visually impaired.
Lauren Barwick added gold in equestrian and wheelchair athletes Chantal Petitclerc and Dean Bergeron raced to victories on the track as Canada picked up four gold medals on the day.
Grand’Maison finished first in 58.87 seconds, taking more than a half-second off her previous mark of 59.57 set at the 2006 world championship. The 19-year-old from Montreal, who won gold earlier in the 400 freestyle and 100 butterfly, said her preparation has been the key to her success. “I’m eating and resting properly and I’m not letting myself be bothered by any distractions,” Grand’Maison said. “I’ve been pretty nervous for the races but the crowd has been absolutely great.”
Sept. 9 (Bloomberg) — Double-amputee Oscar Pistorius won today’s 100 meters at the Paralympic Games in Beijing, though he missed his objective of beating his own world record time. South Africa’s Pistorius, nicknamed “Blade Runner” because of his carbon-fiber prosthetic legs, finished in 11.17 seconds at the Bird’s Nest stadium, about a quarter of a second slower than his world mark of 10.91 set last year. Continue reading →
BEIJING – Valerie Grand’Maison got Canada off to a flying start at the Paralympics, leading a podium sweep in the 100-metre butterfly for the visually impaired on the opening day of competition.
Cyclist Jean Quevillon captured Canada’s first medal of the Games earlier in the day, a bronze in the men’s individual pursuit for cerebral palsy athletes.
Grand’Maison, from Longueuil, Que., Kirby Cote of Winnipeg and Chelsea Gotell of Antigonish, N.S., finished 1-2-3 in the butterfly. The 19-year-old Grand’Maison clocked a Canadian record one minute 6.49 seconds in her Games debut, less than a second off the 12-year-old world record.
“I’m so happy, I’m speechless right now,” said Grand’Maison, who won five gold medals at the 2006 world championships. “It’s a dream come true. Every single morning I have thought about winning Paralympic gold and it has now finally happened. “And it was extra special to share the podium with my teammates. It’s a proud moment for us.”
Natalie Du Toit at the WaterCube in Beijing on Sunday. (AP/Greg Baker)
Natalie Du Toit, the South African who won five gold medals at the 2004 Paralympics and who finished 16th in the 20-kilometer open-water swim three weeks ago at the Beijing Olympics, added another Paralympic gold to her collection on Sunday when she won the 100-meter butterfly in her disability class.
Feeling good never felt more infuriating. Marlon Shirley, the world’s premier amputee sprinter, woke up July 3 with no pain in his knee — not from the half-dozen recent operations, not from the staph infections, not from other problems still lurking in there — for the first time in months. Yet all he could think of was: It’s too late now. I can’t be ready in time.
Marlon Shirley, above in the Netherlands in 2006, has two Paralympic golds in the 100 meters.
photo by Fred Ernst/Associated Press
Ready or not, Monday morning at the Bird’s Nest in Beijing, Shirley will blast from the blocks and run what he calls the race of his life — the 100-meter sprint in the Paralympics, the Olympics for disabled athletes, which opened Saturday. It might become the last race of his life, because for all he knows, his knee will explode somewhere around the 70-meter mark. But two months after assuming he would never race in Beijing, at least he would fail trying.
Every nation, because of how sports programs and health-care systems are structured, has a different method of financing its national-team athletes for the Olympics and the Paralympics. A sampling: Continue reading →
AURORA, Ill. — When he rolls to the starting line for the 1,500-meter wheelchair race at the Paralympics, the Olympics for disabled athletes that begin Saturday in Beijing, Tony Iniguez will wear his Team USA uniform with pride. He will compete for the United States’s Olympic program. He is also suing it for discrimination.
Paralympic athlete Tony Iniguez worked out at the East Aurora High School track in July.
photo by Peter Wynn Thompson for The New York Times
Iniguez is one of many Paralympians who criticize the United States Olympic Committee for providing less direct financial assistance and other benefits at lower levels to Paralympic athletes than to Olympians in comparable sports. The committee awards smaller quarterly training stipends and medal bonuses to Paralympic athletes. Benefits like free health insurance, which help athletes devote more hours to training, are available to a smaller percentage of Paralympians. Continue reading →
After every few dashes across Court 14, Kelly Bruno reached down to her right leg and flicked at something. It was a gesture so slight and so fleeting, she could have been swatting away a bug. It was also the only thing she did that was not in the protocol for a United States Open ball girl — nowhere does it mention popping the pressure valve on a prosthetic leg.
Kelly Bruno reaching down to grab a ball off the court.
Bruno’s prosthesis is in full view because she is wearing shorts.
[picture of Natalie Du Toit preparing to dive into the pool from what appears to be a dustjacket for a book; small, typed writing on bottom half of page]
Natalie Du Toit, an amputee swimmer who qualified for the able bodied 10 km swim in Beijing, has just placed 16th in that event, more than one minute behind winner Larisa Ilchenko of Russia. She had kept up with the lead pack for most of the race but could not keep up when the pace quickened in the latter part of the race. She was disappointed with her result hoping for a top five placing. She plans to be back in the London 2012 Olympics in that event. She will be staying in Beijing for the next month to compete in the Paralympics.
Sir Paul McCartney has launched a £2 million fundraising campaign for ParalympicsGB to support athletes heading to the Beijing Games, as well as to invest in the future of disability sport in the UK both in the run up to London 2012 and beyond.
The first, a brand ad for ParalympicsGB, created by Team Saatchi and directed by Luke Scott, Ridley Scott’s son, has Sir Paul’s iconic Live and Let Die as the soundtrack. Featuring a number of established and emerging athletes with a disability, the film is a moving and inspiring piece that not only shows the skill and ability of the athletes but also the excitement of competing. The second ad, a charity appeal featuring Sir Paul himself asking the British public to make a donation to ParalympicsGB, will be screened from July 7.
Sir Paul said: “I met leading Paralympic equestrian Sophie Christiansen and was completely blown away by her skill, dedication and the fact that she had won a world championship gold medal for Britain, so I felt I had to do something. My suggestion was simple why not create an ad that would highlight the work of ParalympicsGB and call on the British Public to donate much needed money. It was the start of a truly amazing effort from all those involved most of whom gave their time for free.” Continue reading →
“Sport and Ability”
April 22, 2008
Recognizing the breadth of human rights and fundamental freedoms, a core part of which is the
right of persons with disabilities to sport and recreation, delegates from around the world met at
the 2008 Shafallah Center Forum to open a dialogue on sport and ability;
Recalling that the Universal Declaration of Human Rights proclaims that all human beings are
born free and equal in dignity and rights, and that everyone is entitled to all the rights and
freedoms set forth in the Declaration without distinction of any kind;
Reaffirming the principles of equality for persons with disabilities in sport and recreation
embodied in the World Program of Action Concerning Disabled Persons and the UN Standard
Rules on the Equalization of Opportunities for Persons with Disabilities;
Observing the universality, indivisibility, interdependence and interrelatedness of all human
Recognizing the role of sport and recreation in society in fostering social inclusion;
Acknowledging the valued existing and potential athletic contributions made by persons with
disabilities to the overall well-being and diversity of their communities and that the promotion of
the full enjoyment by persons with disabilities in sport will result in their enhanced sense of
belonging and in significant advances in the human, social and economic development of
Realizing the potential of sport to empower persons with disabilities to realize their full
participation in the economic and political life of their community;
Considering the discrimination experienced by persons with disabilities in enjoying their human
rights and fundamental freedoms and barriers that exist in accessing sport and recreation;
Recognizing the double discrimination experienced by women and girls with disabilities in
accessing their right to participate in sport and recreation;
Reaffirming the need to ensure that children with disabilities have equal access with other
children to participate in play, recreation, leisure and sporting activities, including in the school
system, community spaces, playgrounds and recreation areas;
Observing the need to combat stereotypes, prejudices and harmful practices that hinder the
participation of persons with disabilities in sport and recreation, and the need to promote
awareness of the capabilities and contributions of persons with disabilities as participants,
competitors and spectators in sport and recreation;
Understanding the importance of access to a choice of disability-specific or mainstream options
for persons with disabilities to explore their sport and recreation potential;
Encouraging the participation of persons with disabilities in sport and recreation activities at all
Observing the need to facilitate and support capacity-building, including through the exchange
and sharing of information, experiences, training programs and best practices;
Encouraging the facilitation of cooperation in research and access to scientific and technical
knowledge of developing adaptive sport and recreation at all levels;
Recognizing the important role of international cooperation in supporting national and local
efforts to ensure that sport and recreation is inclusive of, and accessible to, persons with
disabilities, including inclusive development programs;
Desiring to implement the principles embodied in the International Convention on the Rights of
Persons with Disabilities and to secure the earliest adoption of practical measures to enable
persons with disabilities to participate on an equal basis with others in sport and recreation;
Observing that Shafallah delegates demonstrated leadership in advancing sport as inclusion
through exploring new and creative avenues for persons with disabilities to enjoy and exercise
their right to sport.
The Shafallah Center Forum encourages the strengthening of the dialogue among and between
individuals and organizations involved in disability, sport, and human rights to advance the
human rights of persons with disabilities in sport and recreation. The Forum further recognizes
the importance of education and awareness-raising to promote inclusive practices across cultures,
communities and society.
Being an L1 paraplegic who also swims to keep fit and who grew up as a competitive swimmer, I was amazed when I read about this South African amputee swimmer who made it to the Beijing Olympics in the able bodied 10km open water swim. Natalie Du Toit was amputated through her left knee after being hit by a car back in 2001. She does not use a prosthetic leg when she swims. She recently came fourth in the Open Water World Championships where she qualified for Beijing. I am looking forward to seeing how she performs at the Olympics later this summer.
This article talks more about her story. I decided to blog on this after reading about Oscar Pistorius on the post by Spirit of the Time. Update ( 08.08.08 ) by Spirit of the Time: see also this more recent What Sorts post on Natalie Du Toit, written just before and after the opening ceremonies at the Beijing Olympics.
Oscar Pistorius will be racing over this weekend in The Netherlands. At least some of the races, especially the 400 metres, will give him an opportunity to set a time that improves his chances of qualifying for the Beijing Olympics; his personal best time is 1 second slower than the qualifying time, and he’s apparently not in top-form right now. But still … he’s probably got as good a chance as the Penguins have of trumping the Red Wings in the Stanley Cup. The CBC has a nice short story on this right here.
Go, Oscar, go!
Update: news of his 200 metre run from Sports Illustrated, and now of his 100 and 400 metre runs here. Oscar needs to shave just more than 2 seconds off his 400 metre time in order to qualify for the South African team by qualification time, unless no other South African has a qualifying time.