Debunking Misconceptions: Paralympics/Special Olympics Confusion

Today I wish to discuss  a misconception of sorts which I came across the past couple months covering the Olympic beat for Yahoo! Sports. Perhaps’s Stephen Prendergast sums up this topic best when  he wrote in a recent article about the US Paralympic Team, “Many people confuse the Paralympic Games with the Special Olympics, but the two are quite different.” The Special Olympics website provides a helpful guide examining the differences, “Special Olympics and Paralympics: What’s the Difference?”

For your convenience I’ll highlight the main points, at least  as I see them. The Special Olympics contain a welcoming philosophy based  on participation. Eligibility requires “athletes must have an intellectual disability; a cognitive delay, or a development disability.” Those eight years of age  and older can partake. The Paralympics  prove more intense, requiring athletes to meet certain qualifying standards just like the Summer and  Winter Olympics. Basically only the elite disabled athletes compete at the Paralympiccs.

The Paralympic Flag

The Paralympic Flag waves proudly in the air. Photo: Wikimedia Commons user Scazon

I stumbled across the Paralympic topic after my good friend 2012 U.S. Olympic hopeful (in race-walking) Michael Mannozzi suggest I  interview Paralympic swimmer Daniel Kamber for an article. Kamber represented the United States at the 2004 Paralympics in Athens, Greece and hopes to do the same this time around in London, England. Learn all about Daniel Kamber with my article “Introducing 2012  Paralympic Hopeful Daniel Kamber.” In order to create interview questions for Kamber I needed to research specifics about the Paralympics and that’s when I became wowed  by the Paralympics’ intensity. I wrote “A Closer Look: The Paralympic Movement” for Yahoo! Sports in hopes to raise awareness about the Games. Please do your part and pass along the article to your friends and family. (Thanks! :))

All in all I feel spreading the word about the Paralympics  serves as an important task. People in the disability community need to know not only can you participate in sports, you can excel in them. Overall athletics offers a  great opportunity for comradery, something as my book Off Balanced (quick plug ;)) illustrates can be difficult for individuals with disabilities to obtain.