BBC BLOGS - The Ouch! Blog It's a disability thing
« Previous | Main | Next »

The disabled Olympians ... not Paralympians

Emma Emma | 12:09 UK time, Thursday, 2 August 2012

Oscar Pistorius

Four weeks before the Paralympic Games begin, you might be surprised to hear that disabled athletes are already making their mark ... in the Olympics.

The first breaking of a world record in the London 2012 Games was by a visually impaired archer on the opening day.

South Korea's Im Dong Hyun, who has 10 Percent vision in his left eye and 20 percent in his right, first broke the individual world record, then, as part of the team, helped to break another (team) world record in the first ranking rounds of both events at Lord's cricket ground. The team went on to win bronze on Saturday though had reached gold in both Athens and Beijing.

Despite experiencing shoulder problems and having surgery in the lead up to the Games, he is hoping to win his first individual gold in London.

CBS News reports that when Im Dong Hyun looks at the target from his position 70 metres away, "he sees colors with blurred lines between them".

Though Im is an athlete with a significant impairment, he is competing only in the 'mainstream' Olympics and not the Paralympics. But there are two athletes who are scheduled to compete at both games.

The most famous of these of course is 'Bladerunner' Oscar Pistorius, who is expected to attract a similar level of interest to athletes like Usain Bolt when he runs in the men's 400 heats on Saturday. He is also part of the South African relay team and will be the first amputee to compete on an Olympic track.

The second dual Olympic and Paralympic athlete is Poland's Natalia Partyka. She was born without a right hand or forearm and has been playing table tennis since the age of seven. At the 2000 Games in Sydney, she was the youngest of the Paralympians, competing at just 11 years old.

She made her Olympic debut in Beijing in 2008. Ranked as number 68 in the world, she was never a medal hopeful for London 2012 in the individual event but that didn't stop the crowd from getting behind her when she played at the Olympic Park on Sunday.

According to Yahoo Sport's Jeff Eisenberg, Natalia's game is almost identical to that of a non-disabled player. He says: "The only impact Partyka's disability has on her table tennis game is her serve. Whereas other players begin their serve by tossing the ball with their off hand, she has learned to do the same by cradling the ball in the crook of her right elbow."

Partyka told the BBC that disability is "nothing" to her and that being asked about it all the time becomes a bit boring. "I am playing the same lines as the others. I am doing the same exercises.

"We have the same goals and the same dreams and I can play like them. I can serve and don't have any problems."

Her Olympic team event is on Friday. When this is behind her, she'll begin preparations for the Paralympic Games which start on August 29.

Should athletes be able to compete in both Olympic and Paralympic Games? Does it throw into question (again) exactly what a disability is? Does it confuse the idea of what the Paralympics are for? Or is this equality in action? Tell us in the comments below or on Facebook and Twitter.


  • Comment number 1.

    You ask: "Does it throw into question (again) exactly what [a] disability is?" I think we know what disability is, at least from the Social Model (or are you referring to the people stuck in the archaic Medical/Individual Model)? Disabled people competing in the Olympic Games undermines the status quo. Women athletes, such as swimmers, outperforming men does much the same thing. Bring it on!


BBC © 2014 The BBC is not responsible for the content of external sites. Read more.

This page is best viewed in an up-to-date web browser with style sheets (CSS) enabled. While you will be able to view the content of this page in your current browser, you will not be able to get the full visual experience. Please consider upgrading your browser software or enabling style sheets (CSS) if you are able to do so.