We were dumbfounded by news earlier this week that two of our Paralympians who travelled to London, England, for the 2012 Paralympic Games will not be able to participate due to a quota system employed by the International Paralympic Council (IPC).
For those who might not be aware, Miss Toni Greaves, a newcomer who won the F54 javelin class at the US Trials in June, and Mr Shane Hudson, who won a silver medal in the 400m at the Parapan-American Games in Guadalajara, Mexico, last year, were left off the team after the Jamaican management was informed that only three athletes from the country would be allowed to participate in the Games. That's because too many athletes were entered in the Games, organisers said.
The three selected were veteran medal contenders Messrs Tanto Campbell, who is in the F56 class and doing the discus throw; Alphonso Cunningham, who is in F53 and doing both discus throw and javelin; as well as Miss Sylvia Grant, who is in F57 and also doing both discus and javelin throws.
A sixth athlete, Mr Javon Campbell, an 18-year-old St George's College track and field representative, was awaiting a medical appeal up to yesterday after he was deemed too "strong" for his class. Mr Campbell's left arm from the elbow down is disabled, but strength is tested from the shoulder, and the medical assessment suggests he is stronger than athletes in his category.
This 14th Summer Paralympic Games, which runs from August 29 through to September 9, is said to be the largest edition of the Games yet, with approximately 4,200 athletes from 165 countries competing in 21 sporting disciplines over 11 days.
Jamaica Paralympic Association (JPA) President Mr Christopher Samuda told this newspaper earlier this week that his association became aware of the IPC's quota system only a few days prior to the team's departure for the Games. Still, they decided to travel with all six athletes with the hope that there could have been a reversal of fortunes after discussions with the authorities.
Mr Samuda has since made it clear that he would be arguing at the next IPC General Council that they adopt an Olympic style qualifying format and do away with the quota system, as it goes against the "triumph over adversity" theme of the Paralympics and disabled competitions. Mr Samuda has our unwavering support in this regard, for we feel the heart-rending pain of the athletes who have missed out on exhibiting their skills at the highest level.
These athletes did absolutely nothing wrong and have worked tirelessly to attain a certain level of competence to participate at the highest level of the Paralympics, only to be told at the proverbial '11th hour' that they will not be able to participate.
"Words cannot explain how I feel right now," Miss Greaves told this newspaper.
Jamaica will participate in one discipline — track and field — with three athletes, while the USA has entered a team of 227 athletes, including six guides for the visually impaired and 58 athletes in track and field, in 19 disciplines. Australia has travelled with a team of 179 athletes participating in 12 disciplines including 43 in track and field.
Void of details relating to how the numbers were allocated by the IPC, we have no choice but to wonder if equity has been applied across the 165 participating countries. We wait to hear more.