“We can be enormously proud of what our athletes achieved in Tokyo. Fifteen medals and a number of beautiful places of honour, that is unprecedented for our country,” said Anne d’Ieteren, president of the Belgian Paralympic Committee (BPC).
“Paralympic sport is growing and becoming more professional. As a country, we have proved that we are following the same trend. In addition to the medals, we have also inspired society.”
The BPC shared the stories of some of their athletes ahead of the games, highlighting some of the challenges they face when it comes to public perception of their disabilities.
The video, titled ‘Now is the time to stare’, ended with an appeal to watch the Tokyo games that d’Ieteren explained was another chance for people to get to know Belgium’s paralympic athletes and their stories.
“People who watched the coverage from Tokyo with respect and interest, people who stared at the talents of our athletes with disabilities – we are taking another step forward there as well,” d’Ieteren said.
“Our top athletes deserve that attention and we also made progress in terms of image. Of course, there is still room for improvement and let us hope that Paris 2024, the Games so close to home, can help us in this respect. Hopefully, the fans will be there too.”
A recent study by the Vrije Universiteit Brussel (VUB) found that 86% of some 2,000 Belgian respondents viewed the Paralympians as role models, while 82% felt they contributed to improving the inclusion of disabled persons in society.
Belgian Rob Eijssen pictured at the match Belgium vs Lithuania in the men’s quarter-finals of the goalball competition, on the seventh day of the Tokyo 2020 Paralympic Games, Tuesday 31 August 2021, in Tokyo, Japan. BELGA PHOTO JASPER JACOBS
Paralympian athlete Peter Genyn, winner of the gold medal celebrates on the podium of the final of the Men’s 100m T51 athletics event on day ten of the Tokyo 2020 Paralympic Games, Friday 03 September 2021, in Tokyo, Japan. BELGA PHOTO JASPER JACOBS
Paralympian athlete Gitte Haenen pictured in action during the final of the Women’s Long Jump T63 athletics event on day nine of the Tokyo 2020 Paralympic Games, Thursday 02 September 2021, in Tokyo, Japan. BELGA PHOTO JASPER JACOBS.
Fireworks at the closing ceremony of the Tokyo 2020 Paralympic Games, Sunday 05 September 2021, in Tokyo, Japan. BELGA PHOTO ROB WALBERS