Cameron Leslie: Way Halbergs treat disabled is a bad joke

By Cameron Leslie

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Disabled athletes such as Sophie Pascoe (pictured) should be judged alongside their able-bodied counterparts.  Photo / Norrie Montgomery
Disabled athletes such as Sophie Pascoe (pictured) should be judged alongside their able-bodied counterparts. Photo / Norrie Montgomery

The 2012 Westpac Halberg Awards came and went, leaving me feeling underwhelmed as expected.

There were no surprises with the winners, nor did the Halberg Foundation put their hands up as world leaders.

Last month I wrote a column for the Northern Advocate which challenged the Halberg Foundation to ask themselves what would a disabled athlete have to do to win the Supreme Award, or even win a sportsman or sportswoman award.

Since that column, the Halberg Foundation posted a response on their website, and for some reason didn't think to tell the columnist whom they were responding to.

The response itself was simply a waffle which reinforced that my view - that Sophie Pascoe should win the Supreme Award and have her achievements at the Paralympics judged alongside those of Valerie Adams and Lisa Carrington - was that of a minority.

Well, that's what I thought anyway.

The Disabled Sportsperson of the Year award is nothing more than a token gesture to say the Halberg Awards are "inclusive".

I still don't think people get it. Paralympic sport is not a participation sport. Once upon a time it was, but no longer. Talk to John Key about how much money is spent on Paralympic sport.

My brother came up with a perfect example, which hopefully someone from the Halberg Foundation reads and listens to, of how to put Pascoe's achievements into the context of able-bodied sport, after much criticism has come over the Paralympic sports classification system.

The hypothetical scenario goes like this: if New Zealand had two boxing world champions, who didn't pay $150,000 to win the belts, one in a lightweight division and the other in heavyweight, whose achievement is valued more? They're both world champions, the same as any able-bodied and disabled athlete.

The Halberg Foundation said the gimp award was created for recognition of achievement and because disabled sport works with a classification system which grades an athlete depending on what function they have or don't have. Similar to boxing.

But, does that mean boxers should have their own award at the Halbergs, or would they be judged alongside those champions of other sports?

Obviously on the night Eric Murray and Hamish Bond had done enough with their one gold medal at the Olympics to take out the Supreme Award. And, good on them. Well done to them and their achievements.

To be brutally honest, though, I think the Halbergs are nothing more than a hyped-up sports awards. A bit of a joke. I think I can safely say that this year's Halberg Awards will probably be the last I'll attend for quite a while.

The disappointment of seeing Pascoe achieve so much in London yet not being able to win any sort of major award at the Halbergs is just too much.

Seriously, what does a disabled athlete have to do, or what needs to change, in order to have their achievements valued the same as any Olympian?

- NZ Herald

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