The para-biathlete and para-distance runner won three silver medals earlier in February during the first stage of the Cross-Country Skiing World Cup in Martel-Val Martello (Italy). He laments the lack of recognition of athletes with disabilities on the international circuit.
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Finish on the podium of the World Cup stage and walk away with a crate of apples as a reward. Here is the allotment found by paraBiathlete and paraglider Benjamin Devitt, during the first stage of the Nordic Paraski and Parabiathlon World Cup, which took place between the end of January and the beginning of February. Disgusted by this repeated lack of consideration, the five-time Paralympic champion took to X (formerly Twitter) on Sunday 10 February to express his outrage.
“200 days before the Paris 2024 Paralympic Games and, in all likelihood, six years before the Winter Games in France, I am sharing with you a photo of my podium in Martel a week ago. At my feet, a crate of apples. Which is nothing more and nothing less than a reward for para skiers who achieve podium finishes.” he wrote on his account on February 4, publishing a photo of his podium.
“Apart from the fact that our competitions take place in absolute anonymity, without the slightest broadcast device, without the slightest media, the value of our sports results, our unceasing investment, is contained in this fund… I am still afraid to be there, I am about it. Love to laugh… and luckily, it turns out I make a pretty good apple pie!”, He tried to play again.
“We are never worth it”
During this Para Cross-Country Skiing World Cup stage in Martel-Val Martello, Benjamin Devitt finished second in the middle parabiathlon (10 km) after the Classic KO Sprint and the Pursuit Sprint (Cross-Country Skiing). Three podiums in eight races, and so many crates of apples won. “We are never valued in relation to our results. I have been with the French team for 13 years. I have 71 podiums in the World Cup, including 36 victories, and 23 medals in the world, including nine world champions, and the only one in Norway. From 2022 we received medal bonuses at the initiative of the Norwegian Federation during the World Championships (about 750 euros for the winner). That’s all. We thought it would push things forward, but it didn’t.” He is sorry, bitterly.
Except “Apple crates, jam jars, chocolates and flowers” Athletes can receive, “Rewards worthy of the French Championship” He quipped, athletes don’t get any bonuses on the World Cup circuit as well as during the World Championships. Only Paralympic medalists receive a bonus from the French state, equal to Olympic medalists. For the rest, athletes have contracts with the National Sports Agency (ANS), professional coordination agreements (which allow athletes to become employees of the administration, community or company and benefit from the adjustment of their working hours) and partners.
But each case is specific based on discipline, media coverage and the athlete’s track record. “We’re not asking for fairness between able-bodied and para-athletes, because we know that in terms of audience, the public, we don’t generate as much as able-bodied people.”
“We are not asking to earn thousands but to at least get recognition for our performance.”Benjamin Devitt, five-time Paralympic cross-country skiing and biathlon champion
On francinfo: Sport
“We do the same sport with the same results as able-bodied athletes. We run for our country,” Benjamin Devit continued, however, welcoming financial support for France’s disabled athletes.
Take advantage of the 2024 and 2030 Games to initiate change
Besides the bonus, the paraathlete regrets the double standard. While the International Paralympic Committee (IPC) previously managed the World Cup stages, it decided to relinquish control to federations such as the International Ski Federation (FIS) and the International Biathlon Union (IBU). LHe cites changes to the international calendar (condensing into five weeks), the cancellation of World Cup stages without postponement, and less-than-able-bodied media are all topics of disparity.
“Being affiliated with an international federation should be an opportunity for us in terms of media coverage, but the FIS and the IBU are not using it. We have just come from the World Cup stage and we have no videos to give. For the media, to find out the results. is complex. It is not readable”, Hurts the athlete.
“If nobody does anything, nothing will happen, It points out. We must initiate the change. With the Summer Games in Paris, then the Winter Games in 2030, we have a way of turning things around. We are told there is no next generation, not enough young people, but at what point do we want athletes to perform at the highest level when there is so little recognition and rewards?” Asks the current runner-up in the general classification in biathlon. If, for the moment, his speech has not received the expected response, it has touched the Minister of Sports and Olympic and Paralympic Games, Amélie Aude-Castera, who has undertaken to discuss with him. “Move things forward”.