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[Editorial] Applauding Paralympians` Human Victory

Posted September. 04, 2008 09:27,   


The 13th Paralympics will open for seven days in Beijing Saturday. All athletes competing represent stories of endless challenges to the hardships faced daily in their lives. Paralyzed from the waist down at age three, wheelchair racer Hong Seok-man will compete again in Beijing. In the 2004 Athens Paralympics, he won two gold medals and one silver. He holds the 200-meter world record of 26.31 seconds. An individual with a three-grade disability, Min Byeong-eon began learning swimming to overcome his fear of water. Now he is the world’s top-ranked competitor in the 50-meter backstroke and holds the world record of 49.94 seconds.

Some are born with disabilities, while others unfortunately become crippled later. Ordinary individuals are susceptible to such misfortune, but stories of people overcoming hardship send a message of hope to the world. Once a promising judo athlete, Park Jeong-min lost his sight as a college sophomore. “What made me more fearful was not the physical disability but the mental disability and loss of confidence,” he said. In Britain, Kelly Knox has grabbed the attention of British society for modeling without a left forearm. To prove anyone can do whatever once he or she is determined to do, she competed in a model contest and won the cover fashion shoot for Marie Claire’s British edition for September.

In the last Beijing Olympics, certain athletes thrilled the world with their unyielding will. Polish teen Natalia Partyka served by nestling the pingpong ball in the crook of her arm and tossing it from there since she lacks a forearm. Likewise, South African amputee long-distance swimmer Natalie du Toit represented her country in 10-kilometer swimming. They won more public applause than American swimmer Michael Phelps, who has become a icon despite having suffered from attention deficit hyperactive disorder.

The athletes in the Paralympics will show who has overcome hardship more, with 4,099 athletes with a host of disabilities from 148 countries to participate. For the first time as Korean prime minister, Han Seung-soo will attend the opening ceremony and perk up Team Korea. It’s time not to cheer the winners but to cheer the challenges and victories of the disabled athletes. Let’s make the Paralympics an opportunity to applaud and stop discrimination against our disabled neighbors.