Editorial: The 2021 Paralympic Games – inspiration in the midst of tragedy

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Saw Grewe (Photo from AP)

Over the past two weeks, it seems every news story has brought more and more sad news. With Afghanistan, Hurricane Ida, COVID-19 and wildfires – we could all use some inspiration right now. The Tokyo 2020 Paralympic Games began Aug. 24 and will continue through Sept. 5 and the personal stories and triumphs of these athletes are, quite simply, amazing.  

Currently, The United States Paralympic Team has 25 gold medals, 27 silver and 20 bronze. One of those gold medals was won by U.S. swimmer Jessica Long in the women’s 200-meter individual medley. Long has now won 25 Paralympic medals, 14 of them gold, in the five Paralympic games in which she has competed.  

Long was predominantly featured in a Toyota commercial that ran during the Super Bowl and the Tokyo Olympics. Born in a Russian orphanage and diagnosed with a condition called fibular hemimelia, her legs would need to be amputated. She was adopted by her adoptive parents who live in Baltimore, Maryland. She made her Paralympic debut in the 2004 games in Athens at the age of 12.  

Long has the potential to add to her medal count as she will swim in three more events in Tokyo.  

Bailey Moody (Photo from teamusa.org)

Brad Snyder claimed gold in the paratriathlon on Saturday, Aug. 28. He became the first American man to ever win an individual triathlon event in the Olympics or Paralympics. He had already earned five gold and two silver as a member of the U.S. swimmer in the London and Rio Paralympics games.  

Snyder is a U.S. Navy veteran who served for seven years with the Navy’s bomb disposal squad. He served in both Iraq and Afghanistan. In 2011, as he was deployed to Afghanistan, Snyder stepped on an IED that left him permanently blind. Snyder said in an interview, “You can’t change what it is, you can only change how you react to it or what you do about the set of circumstances that you’re in.”  

Brad Snyder (Photo from teamusa.org)

Sam Grewe jumped to gold Tuesday in the T63 classification (single-leg above the knee amputees) in the high jump. The Notre Dame graduate cleared the 1.88m bar on his third attempt during less-than-ideal conditions. He said in an interview with his hometown newspaper, The South Bend Tribune, “I was completely drenched. It was a torrential downpour and unlike any meet I’ve had in my entire life.”  

After completing his final jump, a jubilant Crewe said to the cameras, “We’ll see you in Paris!” 

The U.S. women’s wheelchair basketball team advanced to the semifinals Tuesday with a 63-48 win over Canada. They will play China on Thursday in hopes of advancing to the final and defend the gold they won at the Rio games.  

Two members of the 13-player squad are Abby Bauleke and Bailey Moody who both play for the University of Alabama. There is a total of 18 Paralympians with connections to the University of Alabama.   

Paris will host the 2024 Summer Olympics and Paralympics and I hope to see the Paralympics receive more of the primetime coverage that is always given to the Olympic athletes. While both competitions include great human stories, perhaps, the Paralympic athletes are the most inspirational of all. The determination and perseverance of these athletes shouldn’t go untold or celebrated.  

This past Sunday was the first time NBC aired any primetime Paralympic coverage on its main network. More coverage will be aired on NBC this Sunday. Coverage of the 2020 Paralympics can also be seen on NBCSN, Olympic Channel and streaming on Peacock.  

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Christy Perry

christy@cullmantribune.com