“Best we’ve ever had”: Para-athletes praise coverage
Once relegated to swimming during ad breaks, Para-athletes say coverage by Amazon has never been more equal.
The Australian Swimming Trials concluded in Adelaide last night, ending 7 days of competition ahead of the Tokyo Olympics.
Screening on Amazon Prime Video, every swim in both able-bodied and Para-athletes has been broadcast, with post-race interviews.
Para-athletes are thrilled with equal coverage for the first time.
Annabelle Williams, Vice President for Paralympics Australia, gold medallist and commentator, says it has been a ground-breaking move.
“The coverage has been the best coverage we have ever had at a national Swimming Championships,” she tells TV Tonight.
“In 2012 at the trials for the London Paralympics it was at the same pool in South Australia and not one of our Para races was televised.
“We had all of our events during the ad breaks, or before and after the program started. There was not a banner, not a picture, showing any Paralympian in the entire venue. When we raised that, they put up a photo of Kurt Fearnley, who’s an athletics competitor. It was so insulting.
“The most inclusive coverage I’ve ever been a part of”
“The way in which Amazon Prime Video has embraced the Para coverage, is the most inclusive coverage I’ve ever been a part of and it’s made me feel extremely proud. I’ve spoken to so many of the athletes who competed this week, and everyone is just raving. Their families are raving about how equal, inclusive and representative it’s been.”
Even the marketing material has reflected the inclusion of the Para-athletes, which Williams believes makes good business sense.
“I think the commercial nature of Para-sport has grown significantly in the last 10 years. But I also think it does take a broadcaster to genuinely believe in the power of it and I think that’s what Amazon has done,” she continues.
“Not just from a social aspect, but also for businesses”
“I think they genuinely see the benefit of diversity and inclusion. They’re obviously seeing how important it is not just from a social aspect, but also for businesses from a bottom line.
“The feedback I’ve seen on social media is that people have absolutely loved watching our athletes this week.”
“You are looking at someone who has overcome pretty incredible odds”
Pivotal to the coverage has been Giaan Rooney on the pool deck capturing stories from the athletes themselves.
“When you’re watching an Olympic swimmer, it’s incredible, because you’re watching the person who’s the fastest in the world, or in the country. That’s what makes it thrilling,” she continues.
“When you’re watching para-sport, you are looking at someone who has overcome pretty incredible odds, and huge challenges. So that story is vitally important. But they’ve gone on to achieve a lot of success. So Giaan’s done a brilliant job of sharing those stories.
“But it’s not an easy thing. The athletes have been very authentic and open about their various challenges. They’re very vulnerable about a lot of instances they’ve gone through. So I think that really resonates as with people.”
The Tokyo Paralympic Games will be held from 24 August – 5 September, with Williams as a commentator on Seven. So which names should we look out for?
“There’s a new guy on the block called Tom Gallagher, who was an able-bodied surf lifesaver and he has cerebral palsy, and only started pool swimming about eight months ago. He broke the Australian record in the 400 freestyle earlier this week,” she adds.
“Ellie Cole, who has made her fourth Paralympic team, is focusing on the 400 freestyle. Brenden Hall is hoping to win his third consecutive gold medal in the 400 freestyle.
“There’s some big names to look out for. There’s 32 in total and 15 rookies. So I think there’ll be some really surprising breakout performances from some of the young people. The youngest on the team, Isabella Vincent is just 15. When they’re young, they often have standout performances. Their times can drop pretty significantly from one meet to the next.”