The Rise of Parasports

Parasports – that’s sports for people with disabilities – has been on the rise in recent years. The London 2012 Paralympics was one of the driving forces for this, leading to a significant funding increase for the Rio Paralympics in 2016. Although the Paralympics aren’t given equal coverage everywhere, the UK made a particular effort to broadcast as much as possible on a terrestrial network in both 2012 and 2016. Parasport is becoming more popular around the world, but it does still have a long way to go before it’s regarded in the same way as sports with able-bodied athletes.

Growth in Popularity

Parasports haven’t been completely obscure in the past. Oscar Pistorius might have ended up in the news for a reason not related to his sport, but he was previously well-known, referred to as the Blade Runner and allowed to compete in the Olympic games and other non-disabled events. Parasports include a huge range of events, from dressage and Tae Kwondo to athletics, skiing, and soccer. The Paralympics have been instrumental in the promotion of parasports over the last few years, helped by an increased media coverage and general public interest. Another event that has boosted popularity is the Invictus Games, created by Prince Harry for disabled veterans.

Developments in Prosthetics

One of the things that fascinate many people about parasports is the advancements in prosthetics that they can observe. New prostheses are being developed all the time, pushing the boundaries of what’s possible. At the 2016 Paralympics in Rio, you might have noticed the use of prosthetic legs for running that included knee joints. People watching Strictly Come Dancing in the UK right now (the British version of Dancing with the Stars) will have seen Paralympic sprinter Jonnie Peacock dancing with a specially-created leg. If you’re interested in thinking about prosthetics from different perspectives, the idea of transhumanism is one to consider. This considers the idea of how biology and engineering can come together. Cybernetics is an area that aims to improve prosthetics and to keep striving to do more.

Push for More Exposure and Funding

Parasports have started to become more popular, but they still suffer from underexposure and underfunding. Many para-athletes can’t afford to train full-time and just focus on their sports. Parasport events often don’t receive much media coverage, apart from the Paralympics. Some countries offer next to no money at all to disabled athletes, leaving them to do things like borrow equipment or use donated items, including wheelchairs.

There are many people arguing for more funding to be put into parasports, particularly in places where athletes are performing well. For example, Olympic athletes from Britain won 67 medals at the Rio Games, while Paralympic athletes won 147 – and 64 of them were gold. It’s also important for those countries that have very little investment in parasports to gain more funding and exposure, particularly because many of these countries have a great stigma surrounding disability.

Parasports are slowly starting to attract more attention and become more popular. The momentum will need to keep going to achieve parity with non-disabled sports.

Image credits: Australian Paralympic Committee 1, Barney Moss, Australian Paralympic Committee 2