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Tokyo Paralympics: A Tournament To Shine And Win You Over

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Do you wish to know what makes the Paralympics uniquely different? It’s not the disability.

It’s the people within those disabilities. It’s a special collection of people who have a tryst with destiny, and even fate itself. Each person has their own unique disability, and they all have different techniques that work around the disability to make them faster, or stronger, or as agile as possible in the game. It’s a sight of wonder to behold. And don’t get me wrong about this. They’re not “competing almost as good as the regular athletes.” The athletes of the Paralympics, or any individual of the able-ist movement doesn’t want to be seen as able. They want to be seen as worthy of respect. And that, they have of mine.

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Following the end of the grand Tokyo Olympics, the Tokyo Paralympics began from 24th August at the same empty National Stadium. Amidst the rising cases of Covid-19 in the nation of Japan, the games had previously been delayed by a year. The tournament notably boasted 4,400 athletes coming from 162 National Paralympic Committees. They competed for 539 medal events across 22 sports. At the biggest platform in the world, these athletes stunned the global audience with their incomparable talent.

A stunning opening ceremony marked the beginning of this event, with Japanese Emperor Naruhito starting it under the theme ‘We have wings’. The theme was, at once, a source of motivation, while also denoting in symbolism, of the potential that hides in every sportsperson. The day was a resplendent affair with important personalities in attendance. The flags of all the 162 participating nations were hosted by their delegates.

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This year saw some strong competitors from German ‘Blade jumper’ Markus Rehm, to American wheelchair racer Tatyana McFadden participating in the tournament. Polish table tennis player Natalia Partyka participated right after completing the Olympics, vying for her fifth title, and won a Bronze in Table Tennis Women’s Singles, at the Tokyo Paralympics.

Tokyo became the first city in the world to host the Paralympic Games twice; the first time was in the 1964 edition when 375 athletes from 21 nations took part in nine sports. However, this year the country was under immense pressure with soaring Covid cases. The first case was found in the Paralympic Village as an athlete tested positive for the virus. Although no details regarding the athlete were given, it was confirmed that the individual had been immediately isolated with necessary requirements. In keeping with precautionary protocols, the events were held without any live audience, although the organizers had decided to allow some school children to attend in-person.

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In a quick recap of the most memorable moments of these glorious five days, Poleth Mendes won a historic gold for Ecuador, and added 29 centimeters to the world record in Women’s Shot Put. Norway’s Salum Kashafali became the fastest Paralympian of all time in the Men’s 100 m. Gabriel Araújo of Brazil featured in the deep waters in Men’s 50m backstroke, and 200m freestyle, winning gold in both. For India, Sumit Antil, who in effect broke the world record three times, won gold in Men’s Javelin Throw. India’s first-ever badminton Paralympics gold came from Pramod Bhagat, in a landslide victory. How can we forget Avani Lekhara equaling the world record, and becoming the first Indian woman to win a gold at the Paralympics. In total, there were 5 golds, 8 silver and 6 bronze brought home for India, at the Tokyo Paralympics.

Despite all odds, the tournament has crossed all hurdles to allow for a space where limitless talent is propelled forward. The world wishes them all the best and hopes to see a tournament of spirit and brilliance. However, as we come to an end of such heights of glory and accomplishment, let us not forget that the battle is far from over. For whatever happens on the world’s stage, back home, we still struggle to share the pie with individuals we see as less fortunate, or simply lesser than us. Even as you leave these games, don’t forget the reason they exist – make way for those who fought for their place on the table, and not those to whom it was handed down.
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