This Tuesday, the Israel Paralympic Committee and the Wingate Institute released the names of the twenty five men and women Paralympians who will participate in the London Olympics! The athletes will compete in cycling, ping pong, rowing, wheelchair tennis, marathon, sharpshooting, equestrian, sailing, and swimming. Israel has had tremendous success in the Paralympics, winning 330 medals, of which 113 were gold. Israel hosted the Games in 1968.
The Paralympics are singularly inspiring and exciting. The Paralympics brings the same competition between nations as the Olympics, but for every amazing story of an Olympian who has “overcome the odds,” there are hundreds of Paralympians who have achieved the seemingly-impossible. For those who have overcome physical or mental disability, to compete at the highest level speaks volumes to their determination, will, and spirit. There is no doubt that considering its size, Israel is an “underdog” nation. Yet, in many fields, Israelis do not just “keep up” with the larger nations, they exceed them. Whether its high tech or medicine, Israeli contributions to the world are vastly disproportionate considering its size. And when you factor in the part of the world Israel is in, and its truly amazing to see what it has accomplished. If Israel is the proverbial “underdog nation,” then the Paralympics are the “underdog games.”
Tolerance and respect are core values of the Paralympic Games. Tolerance is not a just a word on everyone’s lips, but a creed to live by. While Olympians clearly push their bodies to the limits in attempting extreme feats, Paralympians not only defy any physical disability, but are exceptionally determined, confronting unnerving challenges, and defying the confines of their physical abilities. Undaunted by disabilities, Paralympians meet adversity with courage to achieve rousing triumphs.
On July 9, President Shimon Peres will hold a special ceremony to honor the Olympic and Paralympic delegations before they set out to represent Israel in the Summer Games.