The Front of the Jersey

I generally loathe mission statements, visioning documents, and other busywork of that nature. 

But on very rare occasions, one of these blindingly colorless declarations will cough up a piercing ray of clarity. Here’s one from the International Paralympic Committee’s official handbook:

The Paralympic vision is to make for an inclusive world through sport. 

Notice the subordinate position of “sport” in that sentence? It’s neither the subject nor the object, structrually speaking. “Sport” is a mere grammatical afterthought, a prepositional accessory—akin to the wristband in an athlete’s ensemble. The core of this statement—the words stitched across the front of the jersey, the purpose every Paralympian competes for—is “Inclusive World.”

That’s the ultimate winner at every Paralympics, regardless of which nations’ racers reach the medal stand. The Games—the third most-watched sporting event on Earth, with an audience of more than 2 billion people—do more to advance the concept of disability inclusion than any other single endeavor. They humanize disability at a scale no other initiative can match, turning global indifference into interest and replacing flimsy stereotypes with powerful icons. 

In so doing, the Paralympics lay the foundation for what an inclusive world can look like.

That’s what the Games are about. That’s the impact they have. That’s why Amplitude devotes so much coverage to the Paralympics.

Finally, that’s why many of Team USA’s amputee athletes spend years of their lives training for a few fleeting moments in the arena. Yes, they want to bag medals; of course they do. But, as US Paralympians have explained to Amplitude over and over again, that’s not the ultimate reward. “It’s not just about the sport—it’s outside of sport,” says Tre Jenifer, a two-time gold medalist in wheelchair basketball. “We’re demolishing the stigmas that surround disability.”

You can read more insights from Jenifer and nearly a dozen other amputee Paralympians in “Paralympic Parables,” part of the special Paralympics section in this issue of Amplitude. You’ll also find a sport-by-sport preview of Team USA’s top amputee performers, with emphasis on the athletes you’re most likely to see in NBC Universal’s television coverage—which, we hasten to add, totals an all-time high of 1,600-plus hours. Our special section includes a guide to affordable Paralympic swag that you can buy to support Team USA from afar, along with assorted trivia, factoids, oddities, and other miscellany.

And this special print edition represents just a fraction of Amplitude’s Paralympics coverage. Our Paralympics microsite features info about every US amputee who’s going to Paris, along with interviews, videos, and other content.

For those of you who just aren’t fans of the Games, this issue includes plenty of non-sports content. Read about late-in-life limb loss in “The Home Stretch” (page TK) and browse the rest of the magazine for articles about prosthetic insurance reform, psychedelic drug therapies, and the gaps in care for women amputees.

The Games begin August 28. See you on the medal stand.

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