Texas Woman’s University students Sean Busse and Michelle Enos recently returned from covering the 2012 Paralympic Games in London for a professional journal.
The two kinesiology students were tasked with finding out what the general public in London knew about the competition, which features sports events for disabled athletes.
They will be writing about the games, which were held Aug. 29 to Sept. 9, for PALAESTRA Journal, which will publish later this year.
“I think it’s hard to put into words how amazing it was for us,” Enos said.
It was interesting for Enos and Busse to see how the Paralympics were viewed in London compared to how the events are viewed in the United States.
Enos said she doesn’t think the Paralympics are really known here in the States and that many people think of the event as the Special Olympics.
But the two are different. Athletes who want to participate in the Paralympics have to meet certain qualifying standards to be eligible. Special Olympics does not exclude any athletes.
While interviewing people on the streets in London, the two TWU students learned that the people there just love sports.
“It wasn’t that anyone was on a different plain than anyone else,” Busse said.
The people in London were knowledgeable about the classifications, he said, and they also knew the history of the games.
The two students hope Americans will become more aware of the Paralympics and that the competition has many of the same sports as the Olympics, with some variations.
The sports include cycling, swimming, track and field, sitting volleyball, wheelchair tennis, wheelchair basketball, rowing and archery.
There were about 200 athletes from the United States who participated and about 10 percent were wounded veterans.
Busse and Enos were introduced to disability or adapted sports by Ron Davis, a TWU professor in the Department of Kinesiology.
Busse, 26, is pursuing a master’s degree in kinesiology with a focus on adapted physical education. And Enos, 26, is pursuing a doctorate in adapted physical activity.
Davis has been involved with adaptive sports since he was a doctoral student at TWU in the 1980s. He was asked to coach a wheelchair soccer team in Fort Worth at that time.
“I’ve stayed with it,” he said.
He’s currently the state coordinator of the American Association of Adapted Sports.
Davis was supposed to accompany the students on the trip but wasn’t able to make it.
He said the reason Busse and Enos were chosen to cover the games is because of their passion for such sports events and wounded veterans.
“They both had a keen interest,” he said.
They have an interest in the use of how sports help wounded veterans.
After veterans are injured, they no longer feel part of the team or “band of brothers,” Enos said.
“Sport kind of brings that back,” she said. “They’re learning how to adapt and become part of a group in a new way.”
Davis said disability sport gives veterans a way to be competitive again.
While they were in London, Busse and Enos talked with veterans competing in the games, including Josh Olsen, a soldier injured in Afghanistan who competed on the U.S. shooting team.
They also talked with Kari Miller, a sitting volleyball player, and Blake Leeper, a double-leg amputee, who first heard about the Paralympics when he was 18 and now, four years later, he’s a medalist, Busse said.
Enos said there is a perception about what an athlete should look like, and the athletes in the Paralympics may not fit that mold.
“They don’t look like our idea of an athlete,” she said.
But both students hope this perception will change.
“Until we stop focusing on the disability and focus on the sport, it won’t change,” Busse said.
TWU was recently awarded a $25,000 grant from the Olympic Opportunity Fund, which it will use to get wounded veterans involved in sports, Davis said.
RACHEL MEHLHAFF can be reached at 940-566-6889. Her e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org .