Paralympic Gold Medallist, IPC Athlete's Council Member, Sports Advisor to the Turkish Ministry of Youth and Sports and PhD student. It's fair to say Gizem Girişmen has a busy schedule, so we're delighted she found time to speak to Parasports World about her career, the challenges facing the Para-Sport Movement and the power of Para-Sport. Check out Part 2 of our interview here...
Since you've been involved, what have been the biggest changes in Para-Sport?
Well the system is evolving every day. The goals and expectations are set much higher now that than they used to be, so things become more professional and is really trying to become more athlete centred. Para-sport is really trying to make the athlete heard and for me that is very important.
How well do you think the Athlete voice is represented in Para-Sport at the moment?
We need to build a two-way communication system which athletes are able to give input to. At the moment we realise that although we’ve made progress we still need to be a more athlete focussed Movement. Defining this and saying this is a great step. Once it’s defined you can find ways to make improvements. We’re in the early stages, but we’re headed in the right direction.
Classification has been a big topic of discussion in recent months; it seems like a process which needs to be given some serious attention, what are your views on the system as a whole?
For sure, Classification is one of the biggest items on our agenda. When we talk to athletes, Classification is almost always the first thing which is mentioned, alongside the fight against doping. As an Athlete Council, we’re working on our strategy for the upcoming years and Classification is a major part of it, because if you can’t be transparent, if you can’t include Athlete feedback then no progress will be made. The Athlete is the most important part of this process.
Athletes raise the issue of fairness in the Classification system, especially about the lack of consistency between the Classifiers, which means your Classification can depend on who you are being classified by. So it requires a more consistent system. This is at least the Athlete’s perspective and we have to listen to them. If the Athletes are providing this feedback it means that something is missing in the system and needs to be re-evaluated.
Mis-classification is something with really hurts Para-Sport because it leaves us open to questions of integrity and Athletes need to have a direct input into designing a Classification system for each sport. The Athletes are the ones practising the sport every day; they will have valuable feedback to give. Fair competition is vital to the Paralympic Movement and we’re working hard to ensure it.
In the Paralympic Games bid books there is quite a lot of attention given to the Social and Cultural impact the event can have on a society, do you seen any evidence of this?
In my opinion the Paralympic Movement has a great power to raise awareness about disability and affect how disability sport is viewed by society. It has a great potential to leave a legacy, for instance when we organise events in Turkey you can see the perspective people have towards disability sport changing.
They might not initially view the person as an athlete, but after some time they come to value to the person with an impairment as a legitimate athlete and competitor. I think this is really important, as it’s a step towards creating an equal society. Sport has a great power to influence this.
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