By John Bombatch
XENIA — A local track and field coach says it’s time for media outlets to focus more on the amazing Olympics and Paralympics competitors and less on bugs and pollution.
Xenia Christian coach Robin Norman responded Thursday to a recent Associated Press article that raised concerns as to whether Paralympics competitors would be more at risk to the current water pollution issues or the mosquito-borne Zika virus at the Olympic and Paralympic Games’ site in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.
In the article, Peter Van de Vliet, the Medical and Scientific Director of the International Paralympic Committee, said there was “a certain athlete population that might be a bit more vulnerable to infection,” but Van de Vliet was referring more to paralympians with spinal-cord injuries or cerebral palsy, who might have weakend immunity issues. He said athletes who have lost both lower limbs may have trouble regulating body temperature, which could lead to difficulties as well.
Norman’s daughter, Grace, will be on Team USA for the Paralympic Games which are scheduled to take place beginning on Sept. 7. Grace Norman is classified as a women’s T-44 (below-knee amputee) category athlete and holds several world records already. By virtue of her current world ranking, Norman has already qualified to be among the Rio paratriathlon field. Depending on how things go at the Paralympic National Championships June 30-July 2 in Charlotte, N.C., Norman has a shot at qualifying for the Paralympics in the women’s 400-meter run as well.
According to one Olympic official, if Norman were to qualify in both, it’s a very rare feat for an athlete to compete in a track event and a triathlon event in the same Paralympic Games.
Robin Norman said Grace’s immediate focus is on the high school state track and field championships going on today and Saturday, June 4 in Columbus. Grace is competing with the state’s top able-bodied high school athletes in the Division III girls 1,600-meter run and with teammates Tori Estepp, Ariana Nelson and Rachel Sweeney in the D-III girls 3,200-meter relay.
“During our trip to Rio last summer we found the Brazilian people to be incredibly friendly and welcoming. They truly want to share their country with others. We mainly were in the Copacobana Beach area, where the paratriathlon will be contested. The beaches were gorgeous and clean. The water looks like regular ocean water,” Robin Norman said Thursday by email. “We didn’t see any bugs anywhere and certainly weren’t bitten by tons of mosquitoes. I would say the mosquito population right here in Ohio is more to deal with, due to all of our rain.”
According to an Associated Press article on Thursday, Rio Games organizers met with International Olympic Committee members in Lausanne, Switzerland and assured the officials that the games would go on as planned and that the venues would be safe for all.
With just over two months to go before the Olympic Games get under way on August 5, Norman would like to see an emphasis placed on the thousands of talented athletes who will converge on Rio de Janeiro.
“We are not concerned about all the hype occurring recently about Rio and wish the media would make a shift to covering the courageous men and women who are excited and looking forward to representing the U.S. in Rio,” she said. “Olympic athletes and Paralympic athletes are very focused on competing at their very best abilities, rather than on all the concerns that the media have been sounding out about. Let’s focus on Rio, the people of Brazil, the open hearts that they have to share their culture with the world, and on the incredible competition that the Olympic stage brings; rather than mosquitoes and ocean water.”
Information from an article by Associated Press Writer Stephen Wilson in Lausanne, Switzerland was used in this story.
John Bombatch can be reached at 937-372-4444, Ext. 2123.