Thursday, 8 December 2016

Rio Paralympic Review: Part 2

Day 2 of the Rio Paralympics saw the start of the rowing competition and the sole lgbt representative in that sport was Israel’s Moran Samuel. She earned her place at Rio by becoming world champion in her category last year. In Rio Moran won a bronze medal in the single sculls final on Day 4.

On Day 3 Belgian wheelchair athlete Marieke Vervoort began her defence of the 100m T52 category gold medal and Paralympic record she won in London 2012. A bronze medal was all she achieved this time but was a seasonal best time. She did better in the T52 400m in which she held the world record by winning the silver medal. Despite this success most media organisations’ attention centred on Marieke’s comments on euthanasia.

The sitting volleyball competition also began on Day 3. America’s Monique Burkland was the sole lgbt player. In London 2012 she and her team won silver. In Rio they became the Olympic champions.

Day 3 saw a new sport appear at the Paralympics, the triathlon. Team GB’s David Hill finished in a disappointing 10th place, made even more disappointing in that only 11 athletes competed and that he was only pipped out of 9th place by a photo finish. Even though triathlon was making its debut at the Paralympics David Hill wasn’t. Way back in Athens 2004 he competed in swimming as a 15-year-old, the youngest member of Team GB that year. In the run-up to the Rio Paralympics David was appointed as Athlete Ambassador for Team GB who, with Matt Lister (who competed in the Olympic canoeing trials for Rio but didn’t qualify) were appointed to raise the profile of elite lgbt athletes. Their job was to give support and encouragement to new Paralympians and Olympians.

The last lgbt Paralympian to begin competition was GB’s flag bearer Lee Pearson. Apart from being the most successful British Paralympian still competing (he intends to be at the Tokyo 2020 Paralympics) he is also the most successful lgbt Paralympian of all time. He has won at least one gold medal in each of his 5 successive Paralympics and won 14 medals in total. In previous games he has entered three equestrian dressage events and medalled every time. In Rio one event was dropped, but he still won a team gold and an individual bronze. A knighthood is surely on its way.

The closing ceremony of both the Rio Olympics and Paralympics can go down in history as being the first in which the Rainbow Pride flag was seen. In previous years there has been a vigorous attempts by the IOC to remove flags that weren’t national flags from all venues. Even Kathy Freeman had to get special permission from the IOC to carry the Australian Aboriginal flag to celebrate her gold-medal-winning race in the Sydney 2000 games. This year there was a plethora of flags – national, regional, provincial and club flags, and the Rainbow flag. In the Olympic closing ceremony when IOC President Thomas Bach was making his speech there was someone in the crowd waving two Pride flags behind him. In the Paralympic closing ceremony several of the performers wore Pride flags around their shoulders.

One well deserved mention goes to all the volunteers of both games in Rio. For many years they have been given special recognition at the closing ceremonies. There are countless lgbt volunteers whose names are not known. But one of my followers who was also a volunteer at Rio 2016 left a comment on my Olympic Alphabet article and all I can add is my admiration to all the volunteers. I’ve volunteered at much smaller events such as Nottingham Pride and enjoyed it very much. I even applied to be volunteer for London 2012 but was unsuccessful. However, I attended the London Paralympics and saw first hand the joy, enthusiasm and energy of the volunteers.

Finally, how did Team LGBT do in the final medal table? Of the 12 medals won by athletes they won 10 events (2 team medals). As with the Olympic medals I’ve taken medals won in individual events from the athlete’s nation and counted them in the Team LGBT total. Medals won in team sports where both straight and lgbt  athletes played are counted in both Team LGBT and their national team. That places them down in 29th place in between Ireland and Mexico.

Now that the dust has settled and the results analysed all that remains for me to do is produce an updated lgbt Olympian list. This will appear in early January.

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