Athletes take their mark at Rio Paralympics 2016

Hasan Ahmed - 1A Nano
Posted on: September 24, 2016

From September 7th to September 18th Rio de Janeiro hosted the 2016 Paralympic games, which featured 1100+ athletes competing from 146 different countries across the globe. Among these participants, Team Canada was represented by 154 members who performed in 158 different events allotted in 24 sports, which are also categorized by the type of disability. After the 11 day event Canada finished a respectable 13th place overall, with a 14th place finish in gold medal amount. They ended with 8 gold, 10 silver, and 11 bronze medals, capping a 29 medal performance for the country.

Although all the Canadians performed to their full potential, a few athletes surpassed the expectations in their respective events by becoming multi-medalists. Michelle Stillwell, a track and field athlete in the T51/52 events, paved her way to 2 gold medals in both the 100 m and the 400 m events, with a time of 19.42 s and 1:05.43 min respectively. Another track medalist was Brent Lakatos, who claimed gold, silver, and bronze in the Men’s 100 m, 400 m, and 800 m. He was also part of the bronze 4×400 m relay team, solidifying his performance in the Paralympics. Tristen Chernove of the Cycling team also managed to collect a gold medal in the men’s C2 time trial, silver in the C2 3000 m, and bronze in the C1-2-3 1000 m time trial. There were a few other multi-medalists on the team, but the highlight of the games was Canadian swimmer Aurilie Rivard’s 4 medal performance. She placed 2nd in the SM10 200 m individual medley and received 3 gold medals for winning the 50 m, 100 m and 400 m S10 freestyle, which is why she was chosen to bear the flag at the closing ceremonies. Thus, both the Olympics and Paralympics had a Canadian flag bearer who were swimmers (Penny Oleksiak was her Olympic counterpart).

Even though Canadians did well, other events in the Paralympics were very noteworthy for athletic performance. Particularly, the T13 1500m final race had four athletes who ran faster than the first place Olympic time of 3:50.00 min. The four runners, who are all partially blind, finished within 2 seconds of each other and the first place runner, Abdellatif Baka, broke the Paralympic world record in the process. Tamiru Demisse, Henry Kirwa, and Fouad Baka took 2nd, 3rd, and 4th in the race, but all of them were extremely close during the entire event.

Unfortunately, not every moment of the Paralympics was a happy one. Bahman Golbarnezhad of Iran was participating in the C4/C5 cycling road race when he crashed into the wall and suffered serious neck injuries. All the best medical techniques were used to try to revive him, but unfortunately he passed away later that day. Many condolences were sent out from the viewers, and he was honoured by Iran and the Paralympics with a moment of silence at the closing ceremonies.

Many people have also been wondering why athletes shook their medals when they were handed out. Well, interestingly, each of the medals have steel spheres in them, and each of them make a distinct sound which identify the type of medal that the athlete has received. In past Paralympics, the medals had braille inscribed on them. This is the first time that an audible cue was introduced to the medals to check which type the athlete received.

Although the Paralympics were a fascinating event, it did not reach an audience as expansive as the Olympics. It’s important to realize that these athletes work as hard as their Olympian counterparts, and they should be recognized more for their excellence. Even though coverage of Paralympics is minute in comparison to the Olympics, we should show incredible pride and support to all of our Canadian Paralympic athletes who work just as diligently as their Olympian counterparts. Disability doesn’t necessarily mean an inability, and the 1100+ athletes from 146 different countries participating in the Rio 2016 Paralympics prove this through the display of elite athleticism.