How good are the para-events at the Commonwealth Games? And the
individual performances of our para-athletes? Simple awesome. They've
captured the hearts of spectators in the stands and at home on the couch.
Jim Tucker, writing in the Courier Mail, said that "Para-normal is the
infectious vibe of these Commonwealth Games."
Tim Disken's two gold medals in the pool were awesome, along with his
beaming smile. Then there was Lauren Parker's gutsy performance to take
bronze in the para-triathlon and Evan Hanlon leaving nothing on the track
to win the 100m. And who didn't have a few tears when Kurt Fearnley,
moments after he pushed his way to a silver medal in the 1500m, confirmed
it was indeed his last track race.
I could go on and on. GC2018 has delivered the largest integrated
para-sport program in the history of the Commonwealth Games and the crowd
has responded. Great moments in para-sport are served up and celebrated
day-after-day. But that's really no surprise. After all, these athletes
are world-class, talented, fit, ready and focussed. The difference is
that GC2018 has given the para events prime billing.
Make no mistake - coverage is what makes the difference. It's not
the inclusion of para-athletes alone that is capturing our hearts and
minds; it's the fact that we are finally able to watch them compete,
struggle, fail and triumph on a major commercial station in prime time.
We love them because we can see them.
But we're not seeing all of them. The Australian athletes who competed at
the winter Paralympic Games in Korea just four weeks ago had stories that
were just as compelling and results that were just as awe-inspiring. But
we weren't talking about them because we didn't see them.
As I watched the para-triathlon with much interest, I realised that this
event alone was getting more coverage in Australia than the entire winter
Simon Patmore won on his snowboard, breaking a 16 year gold medal
drought. He backed it up with a bronze medal four days later to add to
his bronze medal from London in 2012 and his Commonwealth Games gold won
in Delhi in 2010. He's only the second Australian ever to win medals at
both a summer and winter Paralympic Games.
When Patmore was winning his gold medal, Channel 7 was showing a replay
of the US series Pawn Stars. If you wanted to watch it, you had to wait
24 hours to see it on daytime TV or 36 hours to see it at midnight. Or
you could fly to New Zealand where, unlike Australia, you could watch the
Why does it matter? Some say it doesn't. I say it matters a lot.
Para-athletes train and compete with a fraction of the funding bestowed
upon their able-bodied counterparts and many struggle to find employment.
The Australian Paralympic Committee attracts a fraction of the financial
support that the likes of the Australian Olympic Committee enjoys.
Meanwhile, expenses like travel costs for para-athletes are, on average,
higher given the addition of guides, carers and equipment like
Media coverage like what we have seen at the Gold Coast Commonwealth
Games is likely to result in increased sponsorship, more appearances and
paid speaking engagements for the athlete in the frame.
Don't all athletes deserve that opportunity, especially if they win and
even if they are doing it all on snow on the other side of the world?
Perhaps the Australian public's overwhelmingly positive reaction to the
para-events on the Gold Coast will encourage Channel 7 - or whatever
commercial station covers the next winter Paralympic Games - to re-think
their strategy and consider, for a moment, what good coverage means to an
athlete. They have four years to sort it out!
Caption: Simon Patmore won a gold medal at the winter Paralympic
Games but you couldn't watch it live in Australia.