29 March 2018 | News

A Superhuman Legacy?

Looking at the legacy of the Paralympic Games

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Written by John Shepherd

Menna Fitzgerald, Britain’s most decorated athlete in her field and GB’s most recent Olympic gold medallist. Have you heard of her? Probably not. Why not? Because she’s a Paralympian. Would you have heard of her if she was an able-bodied athlete? Damn right!

Menna Fitzgerald won gold in the in the women’s visually-impaired slalom adding to her two silvers and a bronze earlier in the Paralympic games to become Britain’s most successful Winter Paralympian. Fitzgerald won Britain’s only gold of the Winter Paralympics and her four medals at the games made up for more than half of Britain’s total medal haul.

An astronomical achievement in any sporting sphere, so why aren’t we shouting about this? Sir’s, Dame’s and stadium names are gifted to Britain’s successful able-bodied Olympians so why aren’t there calls for Menna Fitzgerald to be lauded similarly?

Channel 4 committed 100 hours to the Winter Paralympic Games in South Korea and has been the official broadcaster for the last Paralympics and Winter Paralympics. Their 'Superhumans' campaign has given more exposure and definitely helps to raise awareness of disability sports, but is this enough?

If these Paralympians are ‘Superhumans’ what about disabled people that are not elite athletes? I’m thinking that the positive perceptions of our ’Superhumans’ haven’t yet had the wider social impact that is needed.

Paralympics is an elite sport, Menna Fitzgerald and the likes should receive all of the praise and accolades as any able-bodied athlete, we should be proud of our all-conquering Olympian! We should also remember that there are people with disabilities that aren’t elite athletes, that also shine brightly every day and that also have the right to accessibility and inclusivity.

As the late Steven Hawkins said when opening the London Paralympic Games in 2012, ‘We are all different… but we share the same human spirit’.

We are all different… but we share the same human spirit.