Athlete with Down Syndrome: The Dream of the Paris Paralympics – Paralympic Newspaper

At this point, the team reported to the Paralympics newspaper, a project of the Tagesspiegel and the German social accident insurance. You can find all texts about Beijing games here. You can find the latest news on the social channels of the Paralympic newspaper TwitterInstagram and Facebook.

When Blanca Betanzos returns home to Spain after the 2019 World Cup for people with intellectual disabilities, a great welcome awaits her. She is greeted by her family and her friends with Spanish flags, flowers and a poster reading “Champion Blanca”. They clap and call her name. When her friends hug her, she Blanca has tears in her eyes.

Blanca Betanzos from Spain has won five gold medals in the 100, 200 and 400 meter sprint, long jump and combined triathlon. But the 27-year-old athlete was unable to compete in the Tokyo Paralympics. There was no specific starting class for them. There is a category for people with purely intellectual disabilities, says Betanzos coach Enrique Nielsen: But this starting class doesn’t do justice to people with Down syndrome.

Down syndrome is not only an intellectual disability, but also a physical one. This is why it is not possible for the Spanish athlete to qualify for the Paralympic Games in the intellectual disability category: “In order for people with Down syndrome to participate in the Paralympic Games in the athletic category, they should break the current world records for people with Down syndrome. This is discrimination, “says coach Nielsen. The world record for women with Down syndrome in the 100m sprint is 15.5 seconds. To compete in the Intellectually Disabled category at the Paralympic Games, Blanca Betanzos would have to break that record more two seconds.

The German NPC is still holding back

The Spanish Paralympic Committee is also on the side of Blanca Betanzos: twice it has addressed its requests to the International Paralympic Committee (IPC). “It is about equal opportunity and visibility for people with Down syndrome,” explains spokesman Luis Leardy Antolín. Their request is clear: a specific category for people with Down syndrome. This same category already exists in the Spanish national para competitions.

“Recognition by the IPC would mean that athletes with Down syndrome would be fully integrated and included in international society and sport and would certainly have the same rights as other athletes,” says Nielsen. Blanca Betanzos can already take part in the World Cup and the so-called Special Olympics. But as long as Betanzos is not a Paralympic athlete, this is also a financial disadvantage for her: “She doesn’t have access to many scholarships and grants, so her family has to cover most of her expenses.”

Karl Quade, Chef de Misión of the German Paralympics team, would also appreciate a differentiated classification system for people with intellectual disabilities: “The current starting class offers too few people with intellectual disabilities an opportunity to start at the Paralympic level” , he claims.

It probably won’t be enough for Paris

In Germany, people with Down syndrome can participate in state or German championships, depending on the degree of severity in the starting class for people with intellectual disabilities or in the starting class for people with general disabilities. A separate starting class would also pave the way for many German athletes to the Paralympic Games. It is still unclear whether the German NPC will support the Spanish application: “This also depends on the details,” Quade says. In any case, given the timing indicated, it is not realistic, according to him, that the new ranking already existed for the 2024 Summer Games in Paris.

Her family, friends and her coach have not yet given up on the dream of Blanca Betanzos of Paris and continue to ask for a change: “Otherwise Blanca and all the other athletes with Down syndrome in the world will continue to suffer unfair discrimination … just because they’re special … just because they have an extra chromosome, “says Nielsen.

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