Reflecting on London 2012: Dr. Cheri Blauwet

Erik Brand and Cheri Blauwet London

As we travel along the road of life, we are often called back to our roots in unexpected ways.  This return can elicit mixed and complex emotions of nostalgia, excitement, reflection of times past, pride, and even contentment. For me, returning to the Paralympic Games in London was one such homecoming. I competed in Sydney 2000, Athens 2004, and Beijing 2008, bringing home a total of 7 medals. This means I was around the scene for quite some time and saw the Paralympic Movement evolve before my eyes.

Once a hardly-noticed sidebar to the much larger Olympic Games, the Paralympics have slowly, but surely, grown to international prominence. With this has come the development of opportunities for athletes with disabilities to find equality of opportunity not only for elite sports participation, but also basic measures of physical activity and exercise. For every athlete who makes it to the Paralympic Games, there are dozens more who will try. With this quest comes inherent opportunities for social integration, community access, cardiovascular fitness, mobility, travel, and oh yeah – fun.  

It’s also important to remember that the Paralympic Games represent the pinnacle of competitive sport for athletes with a physical disability. In recent years, difficult issues such as doping, performance enhancement, or positive ones such as corporate endorsements have entered the realm of Paralympic sport. All athletes, regardless of “disabled” versus “able-bodied” status have the desire to win, and the Paralympians are no exception. To me, this is actually a symbol of true and meaningful equity. When all individuals are enabled to live their lives freely and independently (regardless of the ethical choices they make), we begin to see the “disability” descriptor melt away and we are left with simply – athletes.

As we move forward toward Sochi 2012 and Rio 2016, there will certainly be more excitement to come. Continued advocacy is needed toward the development of media coverage of the Games so that all Americans can enjoy watching their U.S. Paralympians compete

Dr. Blauwet was one of many athletes and officials featured in WGBH Medal Quest: American Athletes and the Paralympic Games.  Learn more at pbs.org/wgbh/medalquest

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