Surely every athlete who starts taking up sports aims to participate in the Olympic Games. The largest sports event in the world, taking place every 4 years, can turn into a great joy as well as into great sadness. All the above applies also to the disabled athletes.
In the last few years (or in the last decade) disabled sport has developed more than anyone could have imagined. All that matters nowadays are the results. Why the results? Long before one can perform at the Games, high qualification standards are set for the athlete to be even considered as a national team member, and that does not necessarily qualify them for the Paralympic delegation. Their qualification can depend on centimetres or hundredths of a second. Qualification requirements in team sports are clear: the team has to be successful at a qualification tournament or take a required place at an international competition, e.g. at the European or World Championships. But things are much harsher in the so called individual sports.
Long gone are the times when Dr. Ludvik Guttman introduced sports as a “compulsory” health treatment and a substitute for medications. To a certain extend the above still applies, but when the word is about competitive sport, hard work and achievements are what counts. Attention is paid (sadly) only to the medallists. Only those are being awarded, in Slovenia only symbolically, whereas most other countries have developed an awarding system also for the disabled medallists.
31 Slovenia athletes will take part in 7 sport disciplines in Beijing. Sports Federation for the Disabled of Slovenia – Paralympic Committee made great effort to even increase this number and give a chance for appearance to all formally qualified athletes, but this administrative decision was in the hands of the IPC (International Paralympic Committee). We are convinced that we ensured optimal preparation for all the participating athletes. Their performance at the Paralympic Games should be an all-Slovenian project, but that is unfortunately not the case. The cooperation between the Olympic Committee and the Sports Federation should definitely be more intense, as success or failure at the most important competition in the world certainly mirror the country and its institutions.
But this is no time to moan. This is the time to wish our national team a safe journey to Beijing and good performances on the spot as well as a lot of enjoyable moments and new discoveries. And may the effort of each individual be awarded with their best achievements ever. The professional analyses carried out after their return will show most of the eventual imperfections and fault decisions made during the preparation period.
Many individuals and organizations have contributed to a successful preparation period, especially Institute for Rehabilitation, Foundation for the Financing of Organisations of the Disabled and Humanitarian Organisations, Ministry of Education and Sports and others. Our special thanks go to individual coaches, who dedicated their time to train the athletes and accompany them to competitions in the preparation period for free.
Dear Paralympic athletes, we are convinced that you will not satisfy yourselves with the average, that you already feel competitive and that you are ready to fight your opponents in the spirit of sports. Be sure that we will be with you at all times, even when not everything goes as you wish.
Vice-president and Chairman of the Sports commission