Friday, September 9, 2016

Salute the superhumans

Itzhak Mamistvalov [Image Source]
I realize that, given the profundity of my daughter Chaya's disabilities, the Paralympics should be totally irrelevant to me.

But, somehow, I  am always thrilled by the feats of people with disabilities of any sort. Unfortunately, I've found that the dearth of local media attention accorded the event in the past isn't very different this year. A fact which shouldn't surprise us. It's in keeping with this society's general view of people with disabilities which I (tiresomely?) harp on here.

Nevertheless, it is noteworthy and disappointing.

Since I was awake in the wee morning hours anyway re-bandaging Chaya's horrific pressure sores, I watched the live coverage of the Paralympic's opening ceremony on Israel Television, feeling as though I must have been among a handful viewing it.

One of the Israeli commentators complained about the meager airport send-off the Israeli delegation of Paralympic athletes had received. Another focused on the financial straits that beset those athletes. It's an across-the-board picture of neglect and uninterest in our citizens with disabilities.

An impressive website profiling all the American Paralympians was also mentioned. Unfortunately, neither that site nor the official Paralympics site offering live video coverage seem to be accessible in Israel. (Why??)

The stories of indomitable bravery and tenacity that characterize Paralympic athletes around the world are compelling.

Tatyana McFadden leads the way at the London 2012 Paralympics
[Image Source]
Take, for instance Israeli Itzhak Mamistvalov who was born with cerebral palsy, and swims competitively using only his right hand. In 2004, he won two gold medals and one silver and set two Paralympic records. In 2012, he won a bronze medal.

Then there is the American, Tatyana McFadden, 27 who was
born with spina bifida and adopted from a Russian orphanage, [and] is paralyzed from the waist down. [Her sister] Hannah McFadden, 20, adopted from Albania, born without a femur in her left leg, is an above-the-knee amputee. She uses a prosthesis to walk and a wheelchair to race. [New York Times, September 1, 2016]
Both will compete in Rio, and Tatyana is likely to win gold several times over as she is the world-record holder in the 100, 400, 800, 1,500 and 5,000 meters.

Brazilian Olympics boss Carlos Nuzman praised the athletes at the gala opening ceremony thus: “You are superhumans.”

Not at all hyperbolic, I'm sure you'll all agree.

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