Paralympic long jumper Markus Rehm recently told BBC sport about his ambitions to compete in the 2016 Rio Olympics, four years after sprint runner Oscar Pistorius became the first amputee in history to compete in the 2012 London Olympics.
Although Pistorius didn’t qualify for the finals, Rehm has been described as having “podium potential”. In the 2012 London Paralympics, Rehm, otherwise known as “the blade jumper” jumped an incredible 8.04m, further than GB’s Greg Rutherford’s gold medal jump in the Olympics. So why shouldn’t this, clearly talented athlete, be given his chance to aim for glory?
Rehm has been forced to address questions as to whether using his carbon fibre blade, as used by many amputee Paralympic athletes, gives him an “unfair advantage”. Well-loved Olympic Athlete Jessica Ennis-Hills’ trainer himself has concerns over whether Rehm’s blade “throws [him] further into the pit”. As a result of this Rehm will have to provide scientific data to World Athletics who ultimately will decide if he has the chance to achieve Olympic success.
Rehm, justifiably, is frustrated by this concern, as the same people who were just a few years ago, telling him how amazing it was that he could run again and jump again are questioning if his prosthetic limb is giving him an unfair advantage. He rightly asks “when was the point that [his disability] changed” from being a disadvantage to an advantage.
This is a Paralympic athlete, he has a disability, by definition is less-abled than Olympic athletes, so how can his disability be giving him an advantage? Why can’t his talent be giving him the advantage? The two variables to his success is his prosthetic leg, and his talent. So by saying his prosthetic leg is giving him an advantage, is similar to saying prosthetists have managed to build an artificial limb that is better and more effective that a real one. I personally find this very hard to believe. Prosthetic limbs aren’t meant to be there, legs are meant to be there. Rehm’s whole body has had to compensate and adjust to his prosthesis over the past 13 years, so how can this be an advantage over a guy whose been training and practising with his real leg his whole life?
This seems to suggest that despite Channel 4 trying to build awareness of disability and particularly disability in sport, being the official broadcaster of the Paralympic games, some people still aren’t comfortable with integrating able-bodied sport and disabled sport. Personally, who cares? Sport is sport whoever is competing and there’s something a bit more special and exciting watching a guy with one leg having his shot at winning an Olympic gold for long jump.
Feature image from Flickr.