At least 28 paralympians are competing, which is more than three times the number of Olympians who competed in Rio in 2016.
The Tokyo Paralympic Games feature a record number of openly LGBTQ participants, making it one of the most inclusive sporting events ever.
At least 28 out-and-proud paralympians are competing in the Games, which began on Tuesday, according to sports website Outsports — more than double the number of openly LGBTQ athletes who competed in the last Paralympics in Rio de Janeiro in 2016.
A member of team LGBTQ represents at least eight countries. The United States and the United Kingdom each have nine athletes, Canada has three, and Australia, Germany, and Brazil each have two competitors competing in Tokyo.
The Paralympics’ record number of openly LGBTQ athletes follows another Olympic record-breaking number of out athletes: at least 185 competed in Tokyo.
That was more than three times the number of Olympians who competed in Rio in 2016 and more than the total number of Olympians who competed in all prior Summer and Winter Games combined.
Monique Matthews, the current volleyball champion, was interviewed live on Instagram by LGBTQ media advocacy group GLAAD on Monday.
The 32-year-old, who won a gold medal in Rio and a silver in London in 2012, said she aims to raise money for her husband Landon’s gender transition by leveraging the event’s visibility.
“Most people see us as an inspiration because we are disabled, so they usually look past if you’re LGBTQ … but we want them to see the whole us. Which is why I’m happy that so many [athletes] are out this year compared to last Paralympics,” Matthews said.
“Hopefully it just continues to grow, and they know that they have support and there are people there for them,” she added.
Rich Ferraro, GLAAD’s chief communications officer, told the New York Daily News in a statement that the Paralympic Games “by nature are a celebration of inclusion and equality, and the historic number of out LGBTQ athletes participating this year is something to celebrate”.
The increased visibility the games will bring to the athletes will help to fight systemic discrimination and stigma, Ferraro said.
“Every athlete, regardless of ability, gender, race, or sexual orientation, deserves a chance to participate in sports and to represent their communities with pride,” he added.
The Tokyo 2020 Paralympic Games, which were delayed because of the COVID-19 pandemic, will run through September 5.
The Games were declared open on Tuesday night by Japan’s Emperor Naruhito, with International Paralympic Committee chief Andrew Parsons paying tribute to the grit of the athletes who made it to Tokyo.
“Many doubted this day would happen, many thought it impossible, but thanks to the efforts of many, the most transformative sports event on Earth is about to begin,” he said.
The ceremony was themed around the story of a one-winged plane trying to fly, and featured high-octane musical and acrobatic sequences in a departure from the more sombre Olympics opening ceremony.
Notably missing from proceedings was Afghanistan’s team, which had been trapped in the country after the Taliban takeover.
The IPC confirmed on Wednesday that the team, composed of two athletes, was now out of Afghanistan, but declined to say where they had gone.
Australia’s Greco grabs first gold
On Wednesday, Australian cyclist Paige Greco won the first gold medal of the Tokyo Paralympics, as records in both cycling and swimming began to tumble almost immediately as the competition heated up.
Greco overcame China’s Wang Xiaomei to win gold in the C1-C3 class 3,000 meter individual pursuit, setting a new world record.
The Australian had shattered her own world record by nearly eight seconds in the morning heats to qualify first. In the final, just over two hours later, she lowered her time by another second and a half to 3 minutes 50.815 seconds.
Wang, who had also shattered Greco’s previous world record in the heats, had no answer for Greco’s speed, finishing more nearly four seconds behind.
In the wheelchair rugby pool stage, defending gold medalists Australia were defeated 54-53 by Denmark, halting their attempt to become the first team to win three consecutive Games.
Meanwhile, in the men’s 100m butterfly S14 category, British swimmer Reece Dunn set a new Paralympic record.
Source: AL JAZEERA