Most people overcome some adversity in their life, to do what they love, and continue doing it. One girl overcame a near death experience.
Obstacles can stop people… but not this girl.
STORY BY KAYLA SARABUN
ILLUSTRATION BY JOEL DRIEDGER AND TANNIS BRUDER
In front of you sits your rivals who have worked day in and day out, just like you, to make it there. To the left sits your own team waiting. To the right is your family who have watched you work so hard to overcome various obstacles. You can hear the crowd cheering around you. The stadium is full of fans screaming their country’s name at the top of their lungs. You tune out all of the chants as you get ready to begin. That’s it, the beginning of the Paralympics.
The modern Olympic games can be traced back to 1896, over 120 years ago. However, it was not until 1960 that the first official Paralympic games were held in Rome. There has been room for improvement over the past 60 years for broadcasting of the paralympics.
The broadcasting for all of the different sports at the Olympics is astounding. You could catch every single one of the sports being played at a time, either online, on T.V. or watch it as a re-run or highlight reel late at night. There is constant coverage of every part of the Olympics.
Yet, one would be lucky to notice even a solid minute of Paralympic competition on T.V. To be able to actually watch what you wanted to without the need to check it out on YouTube after, was almost unheard of.
We put our athletes on a pedestal, but why would we allow able-bodied athletes to be placed higher up on the ladder than those who have worked through so much to get to where they are?
“Being a Paralympian, I had to learn a whole new way to play the sport that I had loved for so long with my opposite hand.”
A chilling accident on a brisk October morning years ago caused a great deal of pain. On the way to a volleyball tournament located a mere hour away from her house, an oncoming vehicle drifted into her lane. Trying to avoid a head-on collision, her father attempted to maneuver around the vehicle coming at them. What happened next sent the volleyball player’s vehicle tumbling and rolling down an embankment, changing Shacarra Orr’s life forever.
Suffering from not only a broken leg, Orr almost lost the lower half of her right arm. The accident severed her arm so seriously she lost the radius of her elbow. Her arm hung like a thread, with about an inch of skin keeping it together. Time was of the essence following the responders getting to the scene and flying Orr to the Alberta Children’s Hospital in Calgary.
Trauma specialists looked at her arm with a bleak outlook. Not sure if she would ever use her arm in a meaningful way again, Orr was not a person to give up when the going got tough. Through strength and determination, she worked hard to regain some movement, which got her where she is today.
Before the accident, Orr was the starting line setter for her school’s volleyball team. The setter is crucial for any and all plays made on the court during a game. The determination of the setter helps the team on the court, because they will not let any balls drop, even if the pass is shanked, they are out working hard to make any play work.
It was with that determination that Orr returned to the court following the accident. Orr played for the East Kootenay club team, and a tournament with them lead her to a game in Edmonton.
This was where she got noticed by Canada’s Sitting Volleyball squad, the Paralympic team. After being asked to try out, Orr became the “baby” and the team set out to secure a spot for the Paralympics.
Orr feels passionate about being able to play the sport she loves so dearly, “Being a Paralympian, I had to learn a whole new way to play the sport that I had loved for so long with my opposite hand. Every day is a struggle, but each and every one of us has a story.”
It was also after joining the sitting volleyball team that Orr learned the struggles that para-athletes face, whether it would be with competing in the sports that they love, or the coverage and recognition that they deserve.
“I think that many people are unaware of a lot of the sports that are available to people with physical impairments. I know that for me I will tell people I am a member of the national sitting volleyball team and many people respond in confusion as they have never heard of such a thing. Everyone is aware of
wheelchair basketball, but there is so much more that even I was unaware of until I became a para-athlete,” said Orr.
She does not think that para-sports are given the coverage that they deserve. “I think that para-sports are so unique as everyone has gone through such adversity but has still found a way to make their bodies work to the best of their abilities regardless of the pain or loss of limb or range of motion.” Said Orr.
Even back in 2012, the Paralympic coverage was lacking. According to the newswire online, “the Games will kick-off with a two-hour opening ceremony extravaganza on Aug. 29, which will be carried live on RDS2 beginning at 3:30 p.m., and later in the day at 9 p.m. on TSN2 and on AMI with described video. CTV will also air the opening ceremony on Sept. 1 at 1 p.m… A daily highlights show, showcasing the day’s performances, medal winners, athlete interviews and event features will be hosted by Paul Romanuk and broadcast from 10 p.m. to 11 p.m.”
A mere five years ago, we played opening and closing ceremonies and only an hour of highlights on channels.
The lack of coverage had been made apparent to all of Orr’s immediate family. Both her younger sister, Ciara and her older brother Bryton were able to see different aspects of the Paralympics. Ciara was able to travel with her family to Rio De Janiero back in September to watch her sister compete at the prestigious Paralympics. Her older brother was not.
“I can say that Brazil is a volleyball country, being that volleyball is one of their most followed sports, so sitting volleyball was probably aired more in Brazil than it was in Canada.”
Ciara is Shacarra’s younger sister and one of her biggest supporters. Taking some time off from her first month of her graduating year, Ciara travelled to Brazil to support her older sister. Being able to do so, Ciara was able to catch all of the Paralympic action available there. She was also able to see just how much the Paralympic games meant to the people of Brazil, as they were able to take part in the beauty of the games.
“I found that the Paralympics were almost a bigger deal to the people of Rio than the Olympics were. Tickets were cheaper for the people to buy and they were able to participate in something so spectacular,” said Ciara. “Many of them (people living in Brazil) would go to games even if they had no family participating in them.”
Ciara recalls that the presence of the Paralympics were well known, even if they were not being painted across all of Brazil.
“While sitting on the beach the vendors often times had Paralympic based articles and were promoting them. Although there weren’t great big signs promoting the Paralympics, probably due to cost, you were always aware of them,” said Ciara.
Ciara had been able to support her sister, Shacarra, by physically being in Brazil and taking all of the greatness in. Bryton, was not quite as lucky and had to stay home in Cranbrook, B.C., where finding Paralympic coverage was almost impossible.
Where multiple channel coverage was held during the Olympic Games just weeks prior, it seemed as if there was dead air for the Paralympics. Normal programming resumed for T.V., and society had returned to its usual ways, as if there was not anything going on at all.
Bryton tried furiously to try and catch even a glimpse of his younger sister competing. Almost nothing was found and when he found something, it was a minuscule clip that he had found on YouTube after.
“It’s not very good considering most sports have to be YouTube’d after they are played. There’s a lot less coverage,” said Bryton. “I think in total there was only something like 18 hours of Paralympic coverage, which is unfortunate. It’s actually better to watch because it’s a lot more challenging.”
You learn a lot about someone through the Paralympics. You can see what they have overcome just to get there. This is one of the reasons Bryton watches the Paralympics and is interested.
The Paralympics may not have gotten much coverage here in Canada, but Shacarra said she felt the love while competing in Brazil.
“Brazilians are very passionate sports fans, the stadium was full regardless of if Brazil was playing or not… I can say that Brazil is a volleyball country, being that volleyball is one of their most followed sports, so sitting volleyball was probably aired more in Brazil than it was in Canada,” said Shacarra.
Though she was able to compete and have family there to support her, Shacarra still does not believe that there was enough coverage.
“There is a stat somewhere that said that the Olympics got about 10 times as much coverage as the Paralympics. The Paralympics was created to parallel the Olympics, to be an equal, but instead we see
lower broadcasting, which leads to less people being interested and informed about the Paralympic movement. I had been training for this for three long hard years and my family and friends were only able to watch one game,” said Shacarra.
After years of training, hard work, dedication and the honour of representing Canada, there is little remnants that the Paralympics ever happened. You could hardly tell that they happened to begin with. Since athletes compete, train and put their bodies through complete hell and torture, why don’t we respect all of them the same?