BLOG: Paralympics continue to grow

FeaEight athletes from the Paralympic team came on stage to answer questions about themselves.

The athletes were from archery, cycling, rugby, swimming, track and field and wheelchair basketball.

The 2016 Paralympic games is anticipated to be watched by a record-breaking number of people this year. NBC will be streaming 66 hours of coverage.

Chuck Aoki, a wheelchair rugby player, said in London they took bronze, and they’ve used it as motivation for the past few years with training. The team has more younger talent this year, and Aoki said as a veteran at 25, he hopes to lead them to a gold medal in Rio.

Lex Gillette, long-jump, talked about the relationship with his guide. His guide acts as his eyes — since Gillette is blind — and let’s him know exactly where he needs to run and jump from.

“It’s 16 strides, it’s muscle memory,” Gillette said. “Once I take those strides and jump, I’m in the air and I pray to God I’ll land in the sand.”

Jessica Long, swimmer, has competed in the games since she was 12.

“We have made such huge strides with the Paralympic movement growing,” she said. “This is what I have been waiting for since I was a little girl. It makes me so proud to be a Paralympic athlete.”

Sponsorship and fan support for the Paralympics has increased in past years, and Long said the change is exciting.

“It’s so exciting to see just everyone coming on board with the Paralympics and how exciting the movement is,” she said. “I’ve noticed a huge jump with sponsorships and how excited they are to get on board with Paralympics too.”

Seeing the diversity in the games has also been great, Gillette said. Especially with blind athletes — he has seen a lot more coming out and participating in the games.

“It’s still something we want to continue to build on and make it better in years to come, and the athletes will come after that,” Gillette said.

Richard Browne said the games help to change the perception of what disabilities are, and it helps not just in the sports, but with disability awareness as a whole.

“The best part about Paralympics is that each one of us has our own stories,” Browne said. “We are all amazing in our own separate ways.”

Jarryd Wallace, track and field, said after Rio, stand-out Paralympic athletes should be seen more globally.

Authors:
Kara Berg

Kara Berg is a senior journalism major at Ball State University, and has been obsessed with the Olympics ever since she can remember. She was a competitive swimmer for 12 years and loves the sport more than anything.

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