Today, September 9, 2012, marked the end of the XXX Summer Olympic Games in London. I have a feeling like something has ended too soon. As I have said before, there are people that can’t wait for the Olympics to end so they can carry on with their lives. Nothing has stopped them. Let them live.
What many people don’t know, however, is that two weeks after the televised, mass coverage of the “normal” Olympics, we are graced with the brilliant performances of the athletes in the Paralympic Games. There are several different levels/standing in these games which center around the individual’s disabilities. They range from being able to walk on their own with seemingly no issues to those who have to have special wheelchairs for mobility. It also ranges from those who may stumble when they walk to those who cannot manage many steps without someone else’s accompaniment. No matter what the disability, they take part in several challenging sports.
I was able to watch the Floor Volleyball match this past Friday between Morocco and Rwanda. I was amazed at what I saw. Some guys had both legs while others were missing one or both. Some guys were missing maybe an arm and a leg. Either way, they all sat on the floor and played over a net sitting at about 2-3 feet above the floor. These guys played volleyball! There was no failed attempt at astonishment. They were playing as it they were the regular Olympic men’s teams. Falling backwards on the floor, sliding around on their hips to get a wayward ball. These were men who weren’t messing around. They meant business! Rwanda won the match of three games.
With all my excitement, there was a feeling of disappointment….mainly at NBC. Yes, we wanted to see Phelps get all the medals he received. We wanted to see the men’s and women’s gymnastics teams perform their feats on the floor and apparatuses. That was all fantastic to see and it all made me happy. After watching the Paralympic competitions on YouTube, I wondered…why couldn’t NBC have taken enough time to broadcast these brave athletes? These people know what it is like to overcome diversity and overcome the harsh world around them. Many have been though tons of surgical procedures throughout their life that being able to perform the simplest required movements to exist is a miracle. Letting us know the medal counts would have been enough to make us aware that people were representing our country abroad….proud to be an American.
I could not stay upset while watching these men and women competing in sports with much less physical abilities than I have. That would be terribly selfish of me. Back in 1997, after joining Alpha Phi Omega, I volunteered with the Special Olympics that were held at the University of West Alabama in Tiger Stadium. That one day made me feel terribly thankful of my abilities, but in the same instance, I wish I could have let those competing have my body and mind for even one day. For one day, I wanted each of those boys and girls to be able to run, jump, do advanced math, write papers, and party with others without the strange looks given to them because they were different. I wasn’t disabled and I got those looks sometimes. I knew how they could sting the heart and weaken the soul if allowed to.
I ask you to take a few minutes out of your day to look at pictures shared around the Internet or go to YouTube and look for video footage from the Paralympic Games. I was touched to see so many smiling faces and see tears of joy from their accomplishments. The next games will be the 2014 XXII Winter Games in Sochi, Russia and I hope to see even more feats of strength and determination.