The Olympics may bill itself as an international sporting competition at which countries flex their athletic prowess, but let's call it what it is: a celebration of the astonishing triumphs that the human body is capable of. (I mean, Usain Bolt? Simone Biles? Come on now.)
So it's quite baffling that Paralympians, as differently abled athletes, don't get anywhere near the same recognition and funding that Olympians do. Not only do they have to work extra hard to get to the top of their game, some of them are even outperforming their able-bodied counterparts.
Take the men's 1,500-meter T13 final on Monday evening, for example. The top four athletes all ran faster than Olympic gold medalist Matthew Centrowitz Jr.'s winning time of 3:50.00 from August.
Algeria's Abdellatif Baka came in first place, setting a Paralympic world record with his time of 3:48:29. Ethiopia's Tamiru Demisse took silver in 3:48.49, Henry Kirwa of Kenya took bronze in 3:49.59, and Baka's brother, Fouad Baka, came in fourth place with 3.49.84 — still precious milliseconds ahead of Centrowitz's time.
And lest anyone make the argument that prosthetic limbs give Paralympians an edge over able-bodied runners, the T13 race is for athletes with visual impairment — none of them wore prosthetics.
Baka later said, "It wasn't easy to get this gold medal. I've been working one or two years nonstop, and it's been very, very hard for me."
(It bears noting that the Olympics' men's 1,500-meter final this year was the slowest since 1932.)
Although the Paralympics have seen an uptick in viewership and ticket sales in recent times, its athletes don't attain the same level of glory or financial compensation as Olympians do. The International Paralympic Committee announced budget cuts weeks ago, though fears that the games would be affected were unfounded — the Rio Paralympic Games is the second-most attended in the event's history.