TopOfTheCircle.com

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Sept. 6, 2016 — The “other” Rio Games

Tomorrow, the 15th Paralympic Games will begin to refresh and re-energize many of the venues that were used for last month’s Rio Olympics.

The 23 events will include a number of disciplines that you may already know from the Olympic Games, including judo, track and field, and swimming. There are also games in reduced-side soccer, sitting volleyball, goal-ball, and wheelchair rugby.

The Paralympics will feature some 4,000 athletes. Some, you may already know, like former Formula 1 racing driver Alex Zanardi. Others you may know from just a passing interest in sports, such as American wheelchair middle distance athlete Tatyana McFadden, whose activism forced the Maryland Public Seconary Schools Athletic Association to recognize disabled sport while she was at Columbia Atholton (Md.).

But there is a segment of disabled athletes which have been growing steadily over the last 25 years, and that’s combat-wounded veterans. While armor technologies have allowed soldiers to survive blasts that would have been fatal in previous conflicts, there have been more and more living casualties who have come home with missing limbs or with traumatic brain injury.

It’s this generation of “wounded warriors” which are, I think, bringing Paralympic and disabled sports to the American mainstream. There are going to be some 70 hours of televised Paralympic coverage, and there is supposed to be livestreaming through the International Paralympic Committee web presence.

As opposed to some of the scandals over sportsmanship and drugs that besmirched the Olympics last month, we can all look at the Paralympians to hold up the virtues of “Faster, Higher, Stronger.”

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