The Paralympics Games of Tokyo may have ended, but their legacy for Australia is ongoing. It's not just the excellent performance of all athletes who participated, but the eternal message that is transmitted through their presence there: That will, faith and persistence can triumph and overcome all obstacles.
The history of Paralympic Games
The Paralympic Games evolved greatly in time. Its beginning is spotted in 1948, three years after the end of World War II when a small number of British veterans gathered together. Its later evolution was great: In the first Paralympic Games that took place in Rome in 1960, 400 athletes from 60 countries participated while the recent Games of Tokyo marked a record number: 4.405 athletes with disabilities were present in the capital of Japan. Such a vast evolution shows both the rising interest of athletes for participation and the growing concern of people to watch the Games. Although the last Paralympic Games took place with no attendants, due to the Covid-19 pandemic, people all around the globe were virtually next to all athletes. Up until 5th September, 195.7 million individuals visited the Tokyo 2020 website, not to mention the number of people who have watched the Games on TV. The Paralympic Games take place in parallel with the Olympic Games and there is a wide variety of disabilities that the IOC (International Olympic Committee) recognises as factors for participating: Impaired muscle power, impaired passive range of movement, limb deficiency, leg length difference, short stature, hypertonia, ataxia, vision impairment, intellectual impairment and intellectual disabilities. There is a variation of the above categories depending on the sport.
Australia's history at the Paralympic Games
The athletes who represented Australia in Tokyo's Paralympic Games had a wonderful performance. They won 80 medals in total (21 gold, 29 silver and 30 bronze), giving Australia the 8th position in the countries ranking. Among all sports, para-swimming was the most successful sport for the country: 8 gold, 10 silver and 15 bronze added to a total of 33 medals. Australia's history in Paralympic Games is greatly notable. The country has a continuous presence in all Games, from 1960 onwards, with only one exception in 1976, for the Winter Paralympics. The recent Tokyo Paralympic Games were the 16th time that Australia had participated in the Paralympics and its intertemporal showing is among the top in the world. Fourteen out of sixteen times, Australia was ranked in the top ten countries as far as the medal-winning is concerned. Six times was in the first five countries. The best overall performance emerged in 2000, in front of the home fans in Sydney when Australia's Paralympic team won 286 medals and ranked first in the world. It is also worth mentioning that the swimming heritage of Australia is very strong in the Paralympics with a total number of 453 medals throughout history. This number ranks swimming as the second most successful sport, after athletics, for the country.
The great lessons that Paralympic athletes give
While athletic success is always desired from athletes who participate in such high profile sports events, we shall never forget that there is a different aspect when we speak about the Paralympic Games. The whole philosophy of the Paralympics is strongly linked to the original moto of the Olympic Games when they were envisioned by Pierre de Coubertin, the so-called father of the Olympic Games and founder of IOC: The important thing in life is not the triumph but the struggle, the essential thing is not to have conquered but to have fought well. It would not be an exaggeration to argue that today these idealistic principles are expressed more vividly by the Paralympic Games than the “normal” Olympic Games. Taking under consideration the doping scandals that have occurred in previous Olympic Games and the political implications that played a crucial part in the past (e.g. the boycotting of the Moscow Olympic Games by the USA in 1980), where can you find more authenticity? In the super athletes who are ready to break all moral rules to gain more money and fame? Or in the courageous people who manage to gain strength from their problems and not let their disability ruin their dreams in life?