After a disappointing result at the Vancouver Olympics, the Russians had but one hope left: its disabled athletes.
The X Paralympic Winter Games opened on Friday in Vancouver, and since then, the Russians have bounded into first place, gobbling up three golds, three silvers, and two bronzes. This puts them squarely in the lead in terms of medal count, and, ironically, the gold medals are in the biathalon, which gave the Russians quite a public headache during the Olympics and resulted in a rather paltry medal count.
There are many things that blow my mind about this.
First of all, if Russian paralympic athletes compete at such a high level, they must have exceptional facilities, coaching, resources and attention. And though Prime Minister Vladimir Putin proclaimed his faith that the athletes’ “skill, strength of spirit and fighting character” would bring glory to the Motherland, it’s hard not to note that facilities for the disabled in Russia are, in general, nonexistent. There are no ramps or elevators in most metro stops, and many of the disabled live in Soviet-era high-rises without functioning elevators — as if in prison. State support, in terms of healthcare, cost-of-living assistance, and legal protection, are — okay, I have no more synonyms for this — also nonexistent. (A friend who works at the Russian analog of the Social Security Administration told me that they just built a wheelchair ramp at the building’s entrance. The building — and the SovBez administration — have obviously existed for much longer.)
Second of all, this is probably the reason not as much funding was stolen here: Russians don’t much notice — or care about — their disabled. Or the athletes trained abroad, on their own dime.
Third of all, my prediction is that, to make up for such a humiliating defeat in Vancouver, Russians will trumpet this victory of people they normally ignore on the best of days.
via RIA Novosti