News / Ottawa

Paralympics sports coverage is better, but still needs improvement, say athletes

As Canadian Paralympians return from Rio, it raises the question – how does unequal coverage impact Canadian para-athletes?

Patrice Dagenais, co-captain of Team Canada's Paralympic wheelchair rugby team, and girlfriend Tracy Flyn after Dagenais' flight arrived in Ottawa yesterday.

Evelyn Harford / Metro Order this photo

Patrice Dagenais, co-captain of Team Canada's Paralympic wheelchair rugby team, and girlfriend Tracy Flyn after Dagenais' flight arrived in Ottawa yesterday.

As Canadian Paralympians return from Rio, it raises the question – how does unequal coverage impact para-athletes?

“Obviously we want it to be equal, but now the games are going up online,” said Patrice Dagenais, the co-captain of Team Canada’s wheelchair rugby team, who returned to Ottawa from Rio early Wednesday morning.

“It’s important for us to have support because we work just as hard, if not harder than Olympians,” he said.

Dagenais said that the coverage for para sports has improved since he competed in the 2012 Olympics in London.

“In London, only three or four of our games were shown, this year they were all online,” he said – but admits it would be nice for his games to be televised.

Martin Paray, a former teammate of Dagenais, said though most para sports were available online through CBC this year, he’s frustrated that Canadian sports networks don’t cover wheelchair rugby.

“TSN had f*** all,” he said. “I mean, come on, it’s a Canadian heritage sport.”

And Dagenais’ girlfriend, Tracy Flyn, agreed.

“It sucked it wasn’t on TV,” she said.

And as a co-ordinator for Equestrian Canada, Flyn was made well aware of the unequal sports coverage of the Paralympics.

She said she wasn't able to watch the para horse riding competitions at all – even online.

“We couldn’t even watch our athletes,” said Flyn. “We even had an athlete fall off their horse and we had to find out through social media.”

Tina Collins, on the accessibility committee for the township of Russell, where Dagenais is from, said she feels sad that para-athletes don’t get the same treatment as able-bodied athletes.

“It’s not fair,” she said. “It’s unfortunate and sad because this is the way our society is.”

Collins said broadcasting more para sports would help Canadians appreciate all athletes who work and train hard to represent their country.