The Last Word: Kate Taylor                           is no Paralympian

October 16th, 2021The Last Word: Kate Taylor is no Paralympian

“YOU should be a paralympian.” What?!

“YOU should be a paralympian.” What?!
There are two problems with that text, sent to me by one of my closest friends. One problem is that there’s no capital P for Paralympian. Nouns get Capitals. And you would automatically write Olympian. See? That looks right, without even thinking about it. P-P-P-Paralympian.
The second problem is that just because I’m blind, that does not mean I automatically qualify as a Paralympian. It’s not just people with disabilities. It’s the world’s elite athletes with disabilities. People who have trained hour after hour, day after day, month after month, year after year. There’s a reason that Malcolm Gladwell defines ‘outliers’ as having practised something for 10,000 hours to become the best at it. I’m way too distractable for that. But thanks for thinking the best of me.
I mean, I get it. For two weeks, every four years, we are all Olympic experts. Suddenly, we know everything about all sports. We can remember all 10 of the decathlon events, even though if you ask us at any other time of the Olympic cycle we’d vaguely wonder if equestrian is part of the triathlon. Then, when we all do our morning walks, our weekend runs, we’re suddenly giving the Olympic records the side-eye, thinking we might just be able to do it. If we had more time, less work. That’s all it would take, right?

Nope. Wrong. Which comes to the very thing that defines the difference between the Olympics and the Paralympics. Nothing. They’re not really different at all. Both events feature athletes who run, swim, ride, lift weights, practise, train, practise some more, train some more, run, swim and ride. And then do it all again tomorrow. And every day. For four years. Just for one moment in time. One shot at glory.
Sure, Paralympians can’t see or hear or may have one leg or one arm. But they all have exactly the same Olympic spirit. It’s not about the bodies at all. It’s about the mental strength. The determination to succeed, the dedication to the training, the skill, the talent, the need to win at all costs, overcoming the pain of injuries. It’s what separates ‘athletes’ from ‘Olympians’. And it’s equal for those competing at both the Paralympics and the Olympics.
So do I have a social responsibility to be a Paralympian, then? Because that’s the vibe I’m getting from that text. I’m blind, therefore is it my civic duty to be inspiring? Ha. Ha ha. Ha ha ha ha ha, ha ha ha. Ahem.
No. I did not sign a social contract exchanging your goodwill towards me having a disability in return for me inspiring you.
I’ve said it before. People before me have said it before. And we’ll echo it again as our chorus grows louder across the globe. We are not your inspiration porn. Some of us are amazing, yes. Most of us are just living our regular lives. Let us be who we are. Lift your burden of inspiration expectation from around our shoulders and put it back on your own. See how that feels. And while you’re wearing that burden, watch this video. It’s less than two minutes out of your day. And learn from us, we the 15 per cent of the population with disability.
No, look, I really must insist that you please go back and really do click on that link. I mean it. It’s an ad by WeThe15, sport’s biggest ever human rights movement to end discrimination. And I promise you, you’ve never seen anything like it.
So, Australian Olympians who competed at the Olympics received a $20,000 bonus for a gold medal. But it was only this month that the Federal Government announced that Olympians competing at the Paralympics will also now get that same bonus when they return from Tokyo. It took a bit of a fight to get it, too. A big push by Olympians and Paralympians, then Prime Minister Sco-Mo bowed to the pressure and made the announcement. It was such a proud, proud day. Just shameful that it took until 2021. The Paralympics were held in their first incarnation back in 1960. Still. A win is a win.
Me? I don’t have that strength, dedication or spirit. Even for $10K. I swim 7km a week and that’s it for me. Sometimes I manage about half an hour on the bike before I get distracted and jump off and just dance to the workout music instead. Did you know that even with all of the anabolic steroids, illegal transfusions and therapies, Lance Armstrong still was on his bike six hours a day? Turns out I can’t even be bothered cheating my way to becoming an elite athlete then. Let alone a bloody Paralympian.
“You should be a paralympian.” Nah. I’ll stick to watching the Paralympics at home like everyone else, throwing popcorn at the screen when it goes to a penalty shootout and sobbing when Dylan Alcott wins again. But hey…you should be an Olympian…
Kate Taylor is an award-winning journalist…and she’s also blind. In this four-part series, she explores world issues through the lens of living in regional Victoria with a disability. Sometimes dark, sometimes funny, her stories will always make the reader think.
Email: kate.elizabeth.taylor.1@gmail.com

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