Paralympians 'should have received more honours'

 
David Weir

Former sports minister Gerry Sutcliffe says members of the New Year honours committee made a "big mistake" in not recognising more Paralympic athletes.

He said Paralympians were not put on an equal footing with Olympic medallists and that was a "missed opportunity".

Wheelchair athlete David Weir, who was made a CBE after winning four gold medals, has suggested Paralympians have to work harder to earn recognition.

Cyclist Sarah Storey became a dame, the top award to a Paralympian this year.

Olympic cyclist Bradley Wiggins and sailor Ben Ainslie were knighted

Cycling and rowing performance directors Dave Brailsford and David Tanner were knighted for their services to both Olympic and Paralympic Games.

Four Olympians were made CBEs.

In total, 29 athletes from ParalympicsGB were recognised following their achievements in the summer.

'Inspire a generation'

Mr Sutcliffe told BBC Radio 4's The World This Weekend: "If you remember, at the start of the year there was confusion over whether the Olympians and Paralympians would get honours; the committee said it was unlikely. We managed to get them to change their mind and have a separate category for Olympians and Paralympians."

Saying they had had made a "big mistake" in not awarding the highest honour to Paralympians like Weir, he said: "There was an opportunity to be consistent and if you look at his record over several Olympics I think the least he should have got is a knighthood.

"Because the whole purpose of the Games was to inspire a generation - and how better to inspire a generation of Paralympians than to give somebody a knighthood?"

Honour Paralympians Olympians

Knight/Dame

1

2

CBE

1

4

OBE

2

4

MBE

25

28

Commenting on his Twitter account, Jonnie Peacock - who has become an MBE after winning gold in the Paralympics T44 100m sprint - asked "how much more" does Weir have to do "to get a knighting?!".

Six-time Paralympic gold medallist Weir told the Daily Telegraph he would have been disappointed if Storey had not been made a dame, which she had deserved after winning 11 gold medals.

"It's a weird one, how they choose it. Sometimes it seems that Paralympians have to win lots and lots of medals to get a damehood or a knighthood.

"Kelly Holmes was made a dame when she won two gold medals, but it seems we have to get into double figures to get it. Sarah Storey should have been awarded this years ago, and I just feel that sometimes we are left out, perhaps because we are not in the public eye.

How do they choose?

The sporting honours committee has four criteria:

  • general performance
  • longevity in the sport
  • how much they give back to the sporting community
  • how long before they retire

Source: Cabinet Office

"It is a bit strange, but I am just honoured to get anything from the Queen for doing a sport I love."

On his Twitter account, Weir later emphasised that he was "extremely happy" with his CBE, and had been saying he was surprised that Storey had been overlooked in the past.

Dressage rider Lee Pearson OBE told The Independent on Sunday he was "disappointed" not to get a knighthood after winning his 10th gold medal at the Paralympics this summer.

Pearson said: "Obviously, 10 gold, one silver and one bronze just isn't enough. I'm disappointed because I do feel I've given a lot to Paralympic sport and equestrianism. I think 10 gold medals is quite an achievement."

Sophie Christiansen, who won three golds in the London Paralympics to add to her two gold medals from 2008, said she was delighted to have been made an OBE.

"It's amazing. Aged 25 to be recognised in such a way, I really am honoured so I'm not complaining."

 

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