XV Summer Paralympics ended in Rio de Janeiro. Ukrainian team completed the tournament with record figures. Having won 117 medals, our Paralympic team for the first time took third place in the overall standings, behind only recognized grandees - China and United Kingdom, and ahead of such strong opponents as the teams of United States, Australia, and Germany.
Medals of Ukrainian team at Summer Paralympics
Atlanta 1996 – 7 medals (1 gold, 4 silver, 2 bronze)
Sydney 2000 – 37 medals (3 gold, 20 silver, 14 bronze)
Athens 2004 – 55 medals (24 gold, 12 silver, 19 bronze)
Beijing 2008 – 24 medals (24 gold, 18 silver, 32 bronze)
London 2012 – 84 medals (32 gold, 24 silver, 28 bronze)
Rio de Janeiro – 117 medals (41 gold, 37 silver, 30 bronze)
Factors of success
A lot of words were said about the reasons of success of Ukrainian Paralympians during the Games. These things are obvious. First of all, it is the high motivation of our disabled athletes for whom the medals of Paralympic Games provide a great financial support, and it is built by the president of National Committee of Disabled sports of Ukraine Valeriy Sushkevich advanced system of paralympic sports.
Rejoicing the successes of our Paralympians, we should not forget that in the daily life Ukrainian people with disabilities are subjected to discrimination. From social – in employment, to home - the lack of ramps, handrails and other tools designed to make life easier for people with disabilities. If in the civilized world, people with disabilities are at the highest level integrated in the society, then in Ukraine Paralympic sport is often almost the only social elevator for the disabled. That's why athletes from a number of advanced countries perform at the Paralympics more for the sake of pleasure, while, the Ukrainian athletes are fighting there for the well-being and life prospects.
Ukraine is very lucky with the head of Paralympic sport. We have Valeriy Sushkevich, sports functionary and politician, MP of two convocations, former champion of the Soviet Union in swimming among the disabled, the person who knows the problem from within.
He showed great organizational skills and was able to establish a systematic work in the field of disabled sports. In 1993 he made a very important thing: created the Ukrainian Center of Physical Culture and Sports of the Disabled "Invasport" with regional organizations in all regions of the country, an extensive network of 109 branches. In Paralympic sport he was able to create a system that not only works well, but is officially recognized by the International Paralympic Committee as the best in the world. Perhaps, it is generally the only position for which our country is a true global leader. That is, today we are reaping the fruits of 20 years of systematic work.
We should not hush up another, subjective factor: the disqualification of Russian national team because of massive doping. And Russians in 2012 in London took second place after China winning 102 medals (36 gold, 38 silver, 28 bronze). Of course, the Ukrainian Paralympians were able to win some of these awards in Rio. However, it must be emphasized that this handicap was offset by the fact that, due to the annexation of the Crimea Ukraine has lost a unique Paralympic training center in Yevpatoriya. At the same time, our athletes were able to adequately prepare for the Games in Rio at other locations, which gives them an extra respect.
The outstanding achievement of the Paralympic team is even more striking against the backdrop of unsuccessful performance of Ukrainian Olympians in Rio (11 medals, 2 gold, 5 silver, 4 bronze, and the 31-th place in the overall standings). However, in fairness it should be noted that comparing the Olympics and Paralympics is not entirely correct. For example, at the Olympics-2016 11300 athletes competed for 306 sets of medals, but at the Paralympics 4300 athletes competed for 528 sets of medals. Paralympic program is much wider because of the significant number of categories of the competition - on various indicators of disability within each sport. That is, at the Paralympic objective chances of success were almost 4.5 times more.
So when we heard the voices for that prize from Olympians and Paralympians should be equal, then this fact should also be taken into account. Today, cash equivalents of Paralympic medals are 40 000 USDfor gold, 26 000 USD for silver and 19 000 USD for the bronze. Simple arithmetic calculations show that the state will pay the champions and winners of the Rio 2016 about 86 million UAH.
In terms of spectator interest Olympics and Paralympics are also comparable in proportion. At the Rio 2016 Olympic Games were sold about 5 million tickets out of a total 6.1 million. And at the Paralympics were sold about 2 million, which amounted to little more than half of the potential (despite the fact that ticket prices were much lower).
And here again I want to emphasize the socio-psychological component of Paralympic sport in Ukraine. For the athletes it is a way of social rehabilitation, the ability to solve certain problems in life. And for the entire country is an important tool to attract attention to the fact that among us there are people with disabilities and special needs. There are about 3 million people, and the number of people with disabilities is increasing because of the war in the east. And the attitude to these people is one of the indicators of civilized society.