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Paul Baker/the Gauntlet

Sportspinions: Paralympic athletes deserve better

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It is a sad state of affairs that Canada is unable to go to any given Olympic Summer Games and not constantly place in the top five overall. Wait a second, that is a blatant lie, Canada has placed in the top five for the past two Paralympics in Athens and Sydney and has made the top five three other times in the last 40 years.

The Paralympians in Beijing are poised to establish an impressive medal tally after only two days of competition. In that time, Canadian athletes have amassed six medals in swimming and one medal each in athletics, equestrian and cycling. They have nine medals-- half the total the Canadian Olympic athletes reached in 16 days of competition. If this daily average of four medals keeps up, Canada could amass an amazing 44 medals-- more than doubling the medal count by the Olympic athletes in August.

There are very few stories about these athletes and their accomplishments. Sure, the stories are there, but they are tucked behind the front pages, which concentrate on everything from American victories in show jumping to local and international football. The hot topic on Canadian websites is how a talented Swiss won a tennis tournament, not the double gold medal winning swimmer Valerie Grand'Maison.

Do the Paralympians who win gold, silver and bronze for our country not deserve to be recognized as front page stories? Should Canadians not be proud of their countries accomplishments at the Paralympic games? We seem to be a nation that loves to recognize able-bodied fourth-place finishers, but refuses to acknowledge first-place Paralympians. The disabled athletes deserve to be recognized publicly as Olympic champions just as much as their counterparts.

Canadian Paralympians have been out-medaling Olympians for years. From 1968 to 2008, Canada has only achieved a top-10 finish in the Olympics medal standings once, in Los Angeles in 1984 when many Soviet-bloc countries boycotted the games. Compare that to the two top-twenty finishes, five top-10 and three top-three standings in the same time span for Canada's Paralympic teams. In terms of gold medal numbers, that works out to 362 gold medals by Paralympians versus 33 for our other Olympians. That is a huge difference and deserves some public recognition.

For those magical 16 days in August, the Olympics were the only thing people could talk about. It was Lamaze this, VanKoeverden that. Yes, they performed magnificently, but they were also widely publicized. As soon as the games finished on the night of Aug. 24 all talk about the Olympics ceased. Nobody in Canada seems to care that the second half of the Olympics are just getting underway. And frankly, when there are Paralympians adding to the medal tally in huge hauls, they clearly deserve to be in the spotlight.

It is time that the media begins putting these athletes on the front pages for Canadians to see. Paralympians sacrifice just as much as Olympians and it is their turn to be recognized.

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