This study, which examines key features of contemporary media representations of disabled athletes in the context of the Paralympic Games, engages with established literature on representations of disability to critically interpret recent trends in journalistic inquiry. The analysis of media coverage of the 2012 and 2014 Paralympic Games identifies salient themes concerning the representation of disability. This, along with an investigation of documentary evidence concerning attempts by key stakeholders including the International Paralympic Committee to influence the nature of representation, contributes to an interrogation of the disability narrative emerging from the Paralympic Games and a consideration of the extent to which media coverage has shifted significantly from previous representations of disability.
Aaron Beacom, Liam French and Scott Kendall
Lea Ann “Beez” Schell and Margaret Carlisle Duncan
We examined the landmark American television coverage of the 1996 Paralympic Games. Using a methodological framework developed by Duncan (1983, 1986) and drawing on critical concepts in the disability literature, we conducted a content analysis of the entire 4-hr prerecorded broadcast. Empowering and disempowering portrayals of athletes were identified. Some commentary contained many examples of stereotyping and positioned Paralympians as victims of misfortune, as different, as Other. Other commentary characterized Paralympians as “normal” and as no different from nondisabled athletes. The brevity of the coverage, the poor production values, and the absence of commentary about rules, strategies, and physical mastery suggested that the Paralympic Games were less than, not parallel to, the Olympics. A “hierarchy of (social) acceptability” was useful in explaining differences among the way Paralympic athletes were portrayed by television coverage.
Ciara Sinnott-O’Connor, Thomas M. Comyns, Alan M. Nevill and Giles D. Warrington
and competition in 4 Paralympic swimmers. Methods Participants A total of 4 elite Paralympic swimmers (1 male, 3 females, age 19  y, body mass 48.5 [7.6] kg) selected to compete at the Rio 2016 Summer Paralympic Games participated in this study. Details of individual training age, impairment type
David E.J. Purdue and P. David Howe
This paper explores issues surrounding the inclusion of impaired bodies within the Paralympic Games. To achieve this aim we use empirical data gathered from semistructured interviews held with a range of Paralympic stakeholders. The background upon which this data are analyzed is a critical analysis of the International Paralympic Committee’s (IPC’s) current vision and mission. Pierre Bourdieu’s concepts of habitus and capital (Bourdieu, 1997, 1984) provide the theoretical foundation upon which the analysis takes place. Discussion centers on Paralympic stakeholders’ articulations of issues surrounding individuals with cerebral palsy and/or severe physical impairments, emanating, in part, from a desire for aesthetically pleasing sporting performances. This paper gives Paralympic stakeholders a voice, upon which the IPC and broader sporting community may choose to reflect.
Otto J. Schantz and Keith Gilbert
The purpose of this study was to analyze newspaper coverage of the 1996 Atlanta Paralympics by the French and German press. Drawing on media theories and critical concepts of exclusion and disability. 104 articles from 8 French and German nationwide newspapers were analyzed using both quantitative and qualitative methodology. The results suggest that performances of athletes with disabilities are of little importance to the French and German sport press. Indeed, the way in which the newspapers reported on the Paralympics misconstrued the ideal of the Paralympic Games. Instead of reporting on the sporting and idealistic aspects of this meeting, the press chose the commercial logic of general news value and focused primarily on national success and medal rankings of the countries.
Jadeera Phaik Geok Cheong, Selina Khoo and Rizal Razman
This study analyzed newspaper coverage of the 2012 London Paralympic Games by 8 Malaysian newspapers. Articles and photographs from 4 English-language and 4 Malay-language newspapers were examined from August 28 (1 day before the Games) to September 10, 2012 (1 day after the Games closing). Tables, graphs, letters, fact boxes, and lists of events were excluded from analysis. A total of 132 articles and 131 photographs were analyzed. Content analysis of the newspaper articles revealed that most (62.8%) of the articles contained positive reference to the athletes with a disability. There were equal numbers (39.1%) of action and static shots of athletes. More articles and photographs of Malaysian (58%) than non-Malaysian (42%) athletes with a disability were identified. Only 14.9% of the articles and photographs were related to female athletes with a disability.
Jo Ann M. Buysse and Bria Borcherding
DePauw’s (1997) theoretical construct of sport and how we view the body focuses on three socially constructed ideals of physicality, masculinity, and sexuality. Those who do not fit into these ideals are marginalized when it comes to sport participation and media coverage. In this study the authors examined photographs from 12 print newspapers in five countries during the 2008 Paralympic Games in Beijing to determine how Paralympic athletes were treated. They examined the number of photographs and the content of each to determine whether athletes with disabilities are portrayed as tokens who are marginalized or treated as elite athletes. The findings support DePauw’s construct and point to gender and disability differences and hierarchy in print-media photographs.
Ik Young Chang, Jane Crossman, Jane Taylor and Diane Walker
This study compared and explored the textual coverage of the 2008 Beijing Olympic Games (OG) and Paralympic Games (PG) by the Canadian newspaper The Globe and Mail. The authors found 8 high-order themes and 25 low-order themes for the OG. The high-order themes were predicting game results, reporting game results, athleticism, politics, ethical issues, nationalism, the media, and the economy. For the PG, there were 4 high-order themes, and each high-order theme had 1 low-order theme. The high-order themes were reporting game results, athleticism, ethical issues, and equality between Paralympians and Olympians. Comparisons between OG and PG coverage are discussed and recommendations for future research provided.
Darren Ritchie and Justine Allen
How coaches prepare and perform is critical for athletes’ performances (Gould, Guinan, Greenleaf & Chung, 2002), however, little is known about coaches’ roles and coaching practices during major competitions such as the Olympic or Paralympic Games. To assist coaches in their efforts to improve athletes’ performances in competition environments, greater understanding is needed about the coaching process during major competitions and how coaches prepare and perform. Therefore, the purpose of the current study was to examine track and field coaches’ perceptions of their roles and coaching practices during competition at major events. Eight coaches, seven male and one female, who had coached one or more athletes to an Olympic or Paralympic medal were interviewed. Inductive content analysis indicated that creating an athlete focused supportive environment, detailed preparation and planning, use of effective observation and limited intervention, coach and athlete psychological preparation and managing the process were salient during competition at major events. These findings suggest that during major competition the coach’s role is supportive and facilitative. Actions are largely unobtrusive and in response to athletes’ needs, but remain as detailed as other phases of the coaching process. The findings are discussed in relation to the coach as orchestrator.