Paralympic World Class Sprinter
• Sep. 21, 2004, Athens: Gold medal 100 meters, 12.51 seconds - new Paralympic record
• Sep 25, 2004, Athens: Gold medal 200 meters, 26.18 seconds - new world record
• Sep. 27, 2004, Athens: Gold medal long jump, 6.23 meters - new world record
Viewers of German evening news on September 25 saw images of their Chancellor giving an emotional hug to an athlete most of them had never heard of. Wojtek Czyz was the hero of the day, winning yet an other Paralympic Gold medal in Athens.
Although German newspapers and tv stations had been reporting extensively from the second major sporting event in 2004, for most sports enthusiasts Paralympic athletics is still a terrain they are not familiar with.
Observers had projected a change of attitudes towards Paralympic sports after the Games in Sydney, but unfortunately sporadic and all too familiar reporting was back soon thereafter. Instead of talking about achievements and explaining the admittingly sometimes tricky part of the classification system, stories on Paralympians begun focusing on the individual athlete's disability again.
Many wonder what will happen after Paralympic athletes have returned home this time. Are they again being expected during interviews to go back in their lifes and talk about how they felt the day things changed? Or will the main news media finally come to terms with someone being different?
There is a certain believe that in order for this to happen a community needs more media experienced athletes like the South African swimmer Natalie du Toit, who had been a famous swimmer before becoming an amputee and beginning to compete in sports events for athletes with a disability.
Could Paralympian Wojtek Czyz, who's dream was to become a professional soccer player and who is said to have enlisted the help of a manager, become one of them? Time will tell. At least one German paper was clearly surprised by Wojtek Czyz's focused statement after winning gold and getting the Chancellor's hug. "I only see the track and that's it", he reportedly said.
Well, isn't that exactly what one would expect to be on a world class sprinter's mind?
© 2004 Steffen Berk