Winning obsession

The seahorse chosen as the mascot of next year’s Paralympics is certainly charming, but those who decided on its name have missed the mark. And this is not because they christened it Proteas – after the Greek sea god who possessed the gift of prophesy and was able to transform into whichever shape it wanted in order to wriggle away and avoid us mere mortals – but rather because of the ideology with which they bestowed this name. According to the official explanation, the name Proteas «encompasses the sense of being first, which is the ultimate objective of the Paralympics.» But can this be? Is it not true that the chief (if not exclusive) aim of the Paralympics is forming part of the Olympic Games, and not the attainment of first place, nor of glory, nor of financial rewards? Surely there is a major difference between these games, where participation is the real achievement, and traditional track meets or tennis matches where the focus is on the prize money? Unfortunately, this is wishful thinking. Our obsession with being first has undermined sport itself. If there were one sporting institution where merely participating made one a champion, that would be the Paralympics. That is not to say that the Paralympics are faultless; there have been instances of disabled athletes using anabolic steroids to improve their performance. But these few cases of misconduct are outweighed by the mere presence of disabled athletes at the starting line – which is enough in itself to merit them a medal.

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