Maikel Scheffers: “Paralympic athletes don’t count in many countries”

Maikel Scheffers studies the Master in Sport Management at the Johan Cruyff Institute. He wrote this column about disabled sports for Telesport*

The world of disabled sports is a world of extremes. We are lucky that we are sport-minded in the Netherlands. Here, Paralympic athletes have many opportunities and, in most cases, are treated equally by the Dutch Olympic Committee. But in many countries, Paralympic athletes don’t count. During my international sports career, I have witnessed how major these differences actually are — and that there is a lot of talent out there.

Despite the fact that we have a good life here in the Netherlands, it remains difficult to find sponsors as a disabled athlete. We just do not get enough media attention. That is why we need to be inventive. I am studying the Master in Sport Management at the Johan Cruyff Institute this year where I am further developing myself commercially. Writing a business plan for the Johan Cruyff Foundation about how to get more children active around the world has definitely helped me with this.

Moreover, the development that wheelchair tennis has been going through is enormous. On all levels, progress has been made; from the materials and the coaching to the support from the federations and the Paralympic committee. Also the players have greatly developed themselves. The schools and top sport programs have definitely contributed.

Meanwhile, I have been the ambassador of the Dutch Fund for Disabled Sports (Fonds Gehandicaptensport) for six years now. My life has been enriched a lot by top sport. That’s why I find it important to give something back and to promote disabled sports via my ambassadorship. If everything goes the way it should, I will go to Tokyo for my fourth Paralympics. I am aware of the fact that this is something unique and I hope that I can contribute to the development of disabled sports with my experience, especially for the young athletes. I hope that in the long run all Paralympic sports will be fully integrated with the international federations and Paralympic athletes will get the same rights as Olympic athletes worldwide. That would be amazing!

* For information about the Telesport Scholarship Campaign, please click here

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