Suzanne Scott: An Open Letter Commending USOC’s Paralympic Payout Increase

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Photo Courtesy: Cathleen Pruden

Paralympian Suzanne Scott wrote an open letter to the United State Olympic Committee about the Paralympics and the increase in medal payout for Paralympic athletes, a groundbreaking decision.

It was something she had been thinking about for a while, and wanted to raise awareness for the decision and her sport.

“I was astonished when the announcement came in September,” Scott told Swimming World. “As a two time Paralympian, I felt a renewed surge of pride being able to call myself a Paralympian and am thrilled for the coming generations of disabled athletes that are one step closer to truly being seen by their able-bodied peers as equals. I am hoping to write this publicly to increase awareness in the swimming world, as well as the general public. I am writing this now, because while I realize this is older news, it is news of great significance. As I mentioned in the letter, I recognize that there are still problems within Paralympic sports, as well as society in general, however my hope is that by publicly thanking the USOC, especially in light of the holiday season, I can further a message of gratitude, and help direct the focus to one of the positive changes being made.”

Here is her letter:

An Open Letter to the USOC

By: Suzanne Scott, Two-Time Paralympian, Four-Time Paralympic Medalist

I’ll admit it has taken more than two months for it to sink in and find words to express my deepest gratitude towards the USOC for taking this important step in raising the Paralympic Medal Payout. While as a retired athlete, I won’t be benefitting from this financially, I consider this a win—not just for the future Paralympic medalists. In delivering the message that Paralympic medalists are to be awarded at the same level as Olympic medalists, treating Paralympians as equals, the USOC has taken a crucial step to shift the perspective on the Paralympic movement in the United States. This is a win for all disabled people in America.

My former teammate, Tom Miazga said it best.

“September 21st, 2018. The day Paralympic athletes became equals in the United States,” Paralympic swimmer Tom Miazga wrote on Facebook. “All the commitment, dedication, and sacrifices a Paralympic athlete must demonstrate to be the best are finally being recognized as a feat of superhuman talent, regardless of the physical hurdles they must endure.”

For decades, we have been told that the “para” in Paralympics means parallel, or equal, and for decades, the underlying messages we receive is that we are not. We receive these messages with the lack of education the general public has regarding the movement—the blank stares or worse, visibly disappointed looks during conversations when new acquaintances find out we are not a “real” Olympian. We also receive messages when the number of hours of Olympics shown on television in America is more than double the amount of the coverage as the Paralympics.

As a society, we have a long way to go before reaching true equality for all minorities. In the Paralympic sport world, I recognize that this step may not eliminate other issues the sport faces. However, this is an important step in the right direction and for that, I commend the USOC.

As a two-time Paralympian (2008 and 2012), I was incredibly grateful for the support I received from the USOC during my swimming career, but even still, it has always been impossible not to notice the disparities between how Olympians and Paralympians are treated by the general public, even in modern society. By taking this important step, the benefits are not only monetary. The USOC has not only committed to more money for future Paralympic medalists. The USOC is helping to redeem the very identity of the Paralympic movement in the United States. I want to be clear in making the distinction that the identity of any individual—Paralympian or not, disabled or not—is not affected by this decision. Individuals with disabilities don’t need their identities to be “redeemed” by others. We know who we are and that we are deserving of a chance to showcase our talents—I’m thankful the USOC has embraced this, as well.