Brian McKeever not a token Paralympian

Brian McKeever is an accomplished athlete and star Paralympian who qualified for the Canadian Olympic team by winning an able bodied 50 km. race in January. On Saturday he was told he was not chosen for one of the four spots on the team.

I have mixed feelings about  Brian McKeever not being selected to represent Canada in the 50 kilometere classical event.  Of course, I am disappointed his dream of being the first winter Paralympic athlete to compete at the Olympics is over.  His participation would have reinforced the 'no boundaries' capabilities of all the people with disabilities we know.

On the other hand, I see the tough decision by his coach Inge Braten, as another nail in the coffin of pity and charity.  Some of the toughest stereotypes to overcome are from well meaning sympathizers who feel 'sorry' for us. Pity and charity are one- sided they don't require you to take the other into consideration.  In effect, they perpetuate a relationship of power. It is in my power to help you when I want to and under conditions I decide.  There is no reciprocity.  I don't require anything of you. I don't even have to understand the challenges or conditions you face.  I don't have to see you as a person.  Pity is an emotion with negative moral implications. 

Oh the indignity of an arbitrary gift from an uncaring person.  Charity turns the spotlight on the donor or benefactor – the other becomes an object of our gratification defined as victim, as helpless, not quite as creative and capable.

Whether we agree or disagree with the coach's decision, it was done for the right reasons.  He wanted to field his fastest skiers. And in his judgment Brian wasn't fast enough.  He could have taken the easy way out and added Brian to the roster, thereby attracting media interest and a 'feel good' story.  But it would have been for the wrong reasons.  And neither he nor Brian wanted a token Paralympian.

Bravo to Brian for the dignified way he handled his massive disappointment.  Bravo to his coach for 'seeing' the athlete Brian, not his visual impairment.

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