A Grand Finish In Beijing

By Gary Norris Gray
Updated: September 20, 2008

Beijing 2008 Paralympics CALIFORNIA — Last week, the 2008 Paralympics ended with an outstanding colorful closing ceremony in Beijing, China. However, not many Americans knew about it.

The national news media paid little attention to the games in Beijing. The 16-hour time difference and the lack of Americans winning medals could have been a major factor.

Another factor could be the fact that these athletes do not have perfect bodies.

Many networks choice to display the American disabled Iraqi War veterans at the Games in Beijing. Once again the athletes who grew up disabled are slighted and ignored.

Athletes with Cerebral Palsy, athletes who are Blind, Deaf, have Muscular Dystrophy, Polio, Multiple Sclerosis, Spina Bifida, and neglected hidden disabilities are regulated to the back of the disabled bus — again — or don’t even get on the bus.

The big names were amputees Oscar Pistoris and Natalie duToit from South Africa who participated in the non-disabled Olympic Games a month ago.

Pistoris won gold in the 100, 200, and 400 meters after failing to qualify in the non- disabled games. Natalie duToit won five gold medals in Beijing’s “Water Cube”, topping her total of four years ago in Athens, Greece.

These two individuals were the media darlings at least to the limited media in Beijing. When the non-disabled athletes left so did the press corp. This was so unfair to these talented disabled athletes.

Both athletes are already setting their sights on London, England in 2012.

The Americans came in third place in the overall medal count with 99. Thirty six gold, thirty five silver, and twenty eight bronze. This was one of the best American teams ever gathered, but the Chinese and English teams surpassed them this year with talent.

The United Kingdom came in second place with 102 medals and Mainland China or the Peoples Republic of China became the first Asian country to lead the medal count in Olympic history with 211 medals. China had a distinct advantage being the home team.

The host team can enter every Olympic event and the Chinese took advantage of this rule. The Chinese International Athletic Commission wanted to excel at their games and they were successful.

Nigeria, Kenya, and Angola garnered 25 medals the most for the African continent in any Paralympics Game. They garnered 10 gold, nine silver, and six bronze.

An interesting highlight of the games happened to be the powerful Canadian Basketball team was defeated by the upstart Australian team for the Gold medal. That was the first lost in 2008 for the Canadian team.

They were expected to win the gold medal at the beginning of the games. It was like the American Redeem basketball team expected and won gold a month earlier.

The United Kingdom team defeated the Americans, 85-77 for the bronze metal. This was a big disappointment for Team USA. They were expected to play Canada for the gold medal.

Great Britain’s forward Terence Bywater was the game’s high scorer with 32 points. This was a total which included five successful free throws in the last two minutes of the game.

The British forwards took over the game in the final period to defeat the Americans. Forward Simon Munn and guard Jon Pollock combined for 35 of Great Britain’s points. England’s three headed monster Pollock, Munn, and Bywater played their game.

The United States lost the game at the free throw line missing crtitical shots at the end of the game. American forward Steve Serio and guard Jeremy Lade each hit two field goals in the final minutes of the game. Big Center Joe Chambers did what he could to help his American team with 25 points but it was not enough.

The American women’s basketball team took the gold over Germany in a defensive battle, 50-38. The Germans committed multiple fouls in the fourth quarter and had 19 turnovers.The United States capitalized on those mistakes for their victory.

For those who are squeamish, this is not the sport to watch. It is rough and tough many players crash into each other and fall on the floor hard.

Many athletes from the Middle East participated in these games more than ever before. They set records in power lifting. Iran lead the way with Kazem Golojeh winning the gold in the 100 kilogram division. It was a classic battle between the host country and the strong Middle East teams.

The United States mens team defeated the Austrialians 55-44 in Wheelchair Rugby for the gold medal. This was another expected event.

The Canadian men’s team were very disappointed in receiving the bronze medal defeating Great Britian 47-41 in a really tough match. They were looking forward to playing the Americans again for Para-gold. Both teams wanted a great North American qualifying rematch.

This is another sport not for the faint of heart. Many players leave the game injuried only to return to play. It is amazing how these players survive a match let alone a tournament.

Our BASN friend April Holmes took the gold medal in the women’s 100 meters run.

The American woman also took the Gold in Goalball a game similar to European Soccer defeating the host team China the Americans only lost to Brazil in the prelimiaries 4-0 before sweeping the rest of their games.

Each players must use their arms or legs to move the ball down the field unlike their non-disabled athletes. A very interesting game!

Hong Kong and China took all the gold medals except one in wheelchair fencing. This was the strongest showing ever by Asian countries. Only Sayasunee Jana of Thailand prevented a clean sweep.

The Paralympics Games are different because athletes can paticapate in the same sport but in different numbers in that sport. For example in power football there are three different classes 5,7, and 9 team, it is also the same triple play for power rugby, power soccer and power football and many other team sports.

The Swimming Classifications are the same as their non-disabled counterparts.

There are so many different divisions and classifications for each disabled athlete. Each division places the athlete at his/her ability level or class. Each athlete can move up in his/her class ranking but cannot move down.

This is so that a single athlete cannot dominate a sport. South African’s Pistoris and du Toit are making the task difficult. Every year each athlete must get classified by the International Sport Committee.

The same rules apply with the testing for drugs and steroids in the Para-Games as in the non disabled games . This year the Beijing games had four disqualifications; an all time high for these games.

So, yes, the disabled athlete has been tested just as their non-disabled counter-part and yes they have the same problems, however, it is not as pronounced as their non disabled athlete.

This writer hopes that The Paralympic Games will be telecast and will have press releases next year. These athletes deserve our praises and support for their hard work and talent.