20 May Separate, unequal status for wheelchair speedsters at the Blue Nose
If the Scotiabank Blue Nose Marathon Society ran Major League Baseball, Jackie Robinson might be allowed to participate in a “base-stealing showcase” on the sidelines of the World Series or the All-Star Game.
That’s the kind of circumscribed role the Blue Nose Society has grudgingly afforded wheelchair athletes at this year’s event: a 5K, invitation-only, “showcase” for elite wheelchair racers.
Mind you, it still promises to be an exciting race. I’m looking forward to seeing the fastest wheelchair marathoner in the world, Canadian Josh Cassidy. He won the 2012 Boston Marathon wheelchair division in 1 hour, 18 minutes, 25 seconds—the fastest wheelchair marathon ever recorded.
The photo at the top of this post shows Cassidy crossing the finish line in Boston. It’s not counted as a world record, Wikipedia explains, only because the Boston Marathon course is deemed ineligible for world records.
Nova Scotia para athlete Ben Brown will also take part in Saturday’s wheelchair event. The speed of these exceptionally accomplished sportsmen is going to open some sleepy Nova Scotia eyes.
But, seriously, is this baby step the best our sports establishment can do? The Boston Marathon has had a wheelchair division of its main event since 1975, London since 1983, New York City since 2000. Tokyo, Germany, and Chicago all have wheelchair divisions for their full 26-mile, 385-yard main events.
Nearly half a century after the breakthrough in Boston, Halifax will hold a 5K “showcase.” All the other events this weekend—men, women, old people, children, 2K, 4K, 5K, 10K, half and full marathons—are called “races.” Wheelchair users, including one of the finest athletes in the world, are consigned to a “showcase.” And you have to scour the Blue Nose website to find any mention of it. How fitting for North America’s most inaccessible city.
Enough patronizing! Scotiabank and the Blue Nose society must move to full wheelchair participation in time for next year’s races.
Note: This year’s Blue Nose wheelchair event will start on Sackville Street, near Queen, at 2:55 p.m., Saturday.