by Elizabeth Sponaugle
The Paralympic games were held in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, lasting from September 7 to September 18, with Team USA making a strong showing. The team finished 4th in the medal count with a total of 115 medals; 40 gold, 44 silver and 31 bronze.
The countries that finished in the top three included the People’s Republic of China with a total of 239 medals, Great Britain with 147 medals and Ukraine with 117 medals.
Some shining performances from the United States in the games included Tatyana McFadden, from Clarksville, Maryland, competing in Track and Field. McFadden medaled in all six of her events, winning four gold and two silver medals. McFadden took the gold in the 400, 800, 1,500 and 5,000 meter and silver in the 100 meter and marathon.
Another impressive performance came from Brad Snyder, from Baltimore, Maryland, in swimming. The two-time Paralympian took home three gold medals and tied for a silver. He defended his Paralympic gold medals in the 400 and 100-meter freestyle, while breaking a 30-year-old world record in the 100 freestyle, putting up the astonishing time of 56.15, and beating the former world record by over half a second. In an interview with Never Quit Snyder said, “I want to do the same things I’ve always wanted to do, I’m just a little more driven to accomplish them because I understand how easily situations can change.”
The Paralympic games began as a sports competition involving World War II veterans, with serious back injuries. Following this competition, international attention grew as competitors from overseas began to participate. The first official Olympic-style games for athletes with a disability were organized in 1960. However, it was not until 1976, that a broader spectrum of disciplines were included in the games.
The Paralympic values are based on the history of the Paralympic Games and the tradition of fair play and honorable sports competition. Some say that in this competition the values are even more important than in the Olympics. The Paralympic values include determination, courage, equality, and inspiration, all of which were embodied in the games this year. Whether or not an athlete came home with a medal, many are thankful for the experience.
Charles Walker from Great Britain said, “It has made people realize that athletes are athletes and people are people. It doesn’t matter if you’re Usain Bolt or in a wheelchair, we’re all people.”