Have you heard about the 1500-meter world championship run in which each of the top four competitors crossed the line faster than the winner of the Olympic men’s final?
Or about the guy who is the most accurate distance shooter in the history of archery?
Or the woman who may win seven medals?
If the answer is no to any or all of these questions, then it means you probably haven’t been paying much attention to the Paralympics, the international competition for disabled athletes that follows the Olympics.
It also means you have something in common with the American sports media.
While NBC is offering more coverage of this year’s Paralympics Games than it did for the London Paralympics in 2012, the absence of reporters and photographers with a U.S. passport is notable. Since Sept. 4, I have been in Rio working with student journalists from the University of Georgia and from Penn State University, where I run the sports journalism program. Our group’s assignment is to supplement coverage of the Games for the Associated Press.
But according to a list provided by the International Paralympic Committee, through Sept. 13, the total number of editorial and photo credentials issued to Americans – this excludes NBC – was 52. Take out the student teams from Penn State and Georgia, plus faculty, and the number drops to 29.
By way of comparison, for the Rio Olympics, more than 400 credentials were issued to U.S. print and photo journalists.
So why does coverage fall off so much for the Paralympics?
Is there really a lack of interest?
One of the few studies to look at the issue in depth, now more than a decade old, found that journalists felt audiences weren’t interested in the Paralympics, that the event was costly to cover, and that they didn’t consider the games to be real sport.
Certainly, attitudes have changed somewhat – and in some places – since.
The London Paralympics attracted 2.7 million spectators; Britain now has at least 56 accredited print and photo journalists in Rio, according to the IPC list, with substantial coverage back home. The BBC World News has included Paralympic event stories in its morning sports report.
Japan has 122 accredited journalists in Brazil. Germany checks in with 99.
The United States, meanwhile, still lags behind – just as it trails China in the medal count.