carnegieXchange: School of Sport

Why you should watch the Paralympics?

We have a few more days left of the Tokyo 2020 Paralympics and Team GB are doing very well. Just like any mega-sporting event the Tokyo 2020 Paralympics is proving to be addictive viewing for many sports enthusiasts.

New Carnegie School of Sport Building

I can’t get enough of it. I was glued to the TV cheering on GB Wheelchair Rugby in their epic gold medal game. There have been so many individual performances to celebrate including Sir Lee Pearson in Dressage, David Smith in Boccia, and LBU Alumni Dame Sarah Storey competing in the Cycling. Their longevity and success at multiple Paralympics are unprecedented. I suspect they will all be back for more in Paris 2024. And then of course, there are many who have triumphed without getting onto the podium. Like millions of others, I was touched by the raw emotion of Ellie Robinson’s post-race interview as she described how she had performed beyond her expectation by securing fifth place. She rightly points out that winning a medal is not the only marker of success.

Unlike previous Olympics and Paralympics there has been an absence of spectators at events and because of this the media has given more attention to the athletes and their families. This has provided an opportunity to learn all sorts of trivial and amusing things about our Paralympians. For instance, gold medallist Chris Skelley’s call out to his family to stock up on pork pies in readiness for his return to the UK. Whilst the coxed four rowers admitted to packing their Tokyo 2020 Paralympic branded duvets as a keepsake from their Japanese adventures.

Kadeena Cox

Kadeena in action at the Paralympics

Have you tuned into the Paralympics yet? There are some very good reasons why you should. First, this mega-event offers an opportunity to indulge yourself in a range of sports and some may be new to you like Goalball, Boccia and Wheelchair Tennis. So, go on, stretch yourself beyond those traditional sports that dominate our screens like football, rugby, golf and cricket. Second, Paralympic viewing invites us all to re-think the sports we play. So, why not watch your sport and be open to how the rules, techniques and tactics may differ to what you are familiar with? There really isn’t just one way to play a sport. The Paralympics is part of a diverse world of sport and we need to support our PE, sports coaching and sport development students to better understand this kind of diversity. And more importantly, we need to support our students to be confident to adapt sports and their practices to enable disabled people to be included and succeed. An openminded practitioner can enable everyone to play sport. Third, and more broadly, the Paralympics serve as a prompt to have more central in our thoughts disabled people in society and sport. The opening ceremony of the Tokyo 2020 Paralympics saw the launch of #WeThe15 an international campaign focusing on the 15% of the population experiencing a disability. It is striving to ensure disabled people can be active and visible members of an inclusive society. Local and national sports organisations and the education sector, including universities, all have a role to play in tackling disability discrimination and exclusion. Watching the Paralympics and beginning conversations about sport for disabled people could be a starting point for us all.

I have offered a few reasons why Paralympic viewing is a must, but if you are still not convinced why not check out these other 50 reasons!

Professor Hayley Fitzgerald

Professor / Carnegie School Of Sport
Hayley joined our University in September 2005 as a Senior Lecturer. She teaches on a range of undergraduate and postgraduate modules focusing on social and cultural aspects of leisure, sport and physical education.