Australia’s Winter Paralympic team might be small, but they’ve crushed it in Pyeongchang.
The 13 athletes won a gold medal in the men’s snowboard cross and bronze medals in the women’s giant slalom vision-impaired class,women’s vision-impaired super-combined and men’s banked slalom.
Australia finished 14th on the medal tally, almost 10 spots better than Australia’s 23rd-placed effort at the Winter Olympics.
But despite the success, fans haven’t been able to watch Australian athletes claim any of those medals live.
And they haven’t been shy about letting Paralympics broadcaster Channel Seven know their disappointment, particularly over the network’s decision to show a replay of US series Pawn Stars while Simon Patmore won Australia’s first gold medal at a Winter Paralympics in 16 years.
Fans had two chances a day to see Australian athletes compete
Channel Seven broadcast a Paralympics highlights package at 11am on its 7mate channel each day during the games. A repeat was shown on 7TWO at 11pm the same night.
There’s no live coverage of the Winter Paralympics across the network’s digital platforms.
For some fans, that wasn’t good enough.
They’ve been commenting on ABC Grandstand’s Facebook page and Seven’s own social media pages about the lack of coverage.
— Jade (@jadedromantic13) March 13, 2018
Speaking to Fairfax Media, a Channel Seven spokesman said the Winter Paralympics was an important event.
“The Australian Winter Paralympic team is a very small team competing in reasonably condensed event framework,” the statement said.
“Seven is the first Australian commercial broadcaster to cover the Winter Paralympics.”
FWIW, for the 2016 Rio Paralympics Seven promised 14 hours of coverage per day and offered a livestream of coverage through several of its apps.
Experts say Seven deserves praise for broadcasting the Winter Paralympics, but it needs to do more
Here’s Professor Simon Darcy from the University of Technology Sydney Business School. He’s an expert in Paralympics and disabled sport.
He said while it’s terrific that Seven picked up the rights to broadcast the Winter Paralympics, it was important the event was given similar importance to non-disabled sport.
“Did they (Channel Seven) give it the same prominence (as the Winter Olympics)? You would have to say no, they didn’t,” Professor Darcy said.
“And that isn’t a particularly good sign from the position of people with disabilities as athletes compared to their able-bodied Olympic participants.”
He said events like the Paralympics provide a chance to change attitudes towards disability but the 11am and 11pm broadcasts by Seven limited the event’s exposure, particularly to school children.
Aussie sporting fans are demanding Paralympic sport on the TV, and they need to keep being loud about it
That’s according to Paralympic athlete Kathleen O’Kelly-Kennedy, who won a bronze medal in wheelchair basketball for Australia at the 2008 Beijing games.
Happy International Day of People with Disability! I'll be busy celebrating my ability playing the sport I love 😊 pic.twitter.com/LVEDpI230T
— Kathleen O'Kelly-K (@kathleenokk) December 3, 2015
“Good on them (Channel Seven) for picking it up, for being the first commercial television and giving it go,” she said.
“But I do think there will be a lot of lessons out of this and hopefully next time we will see things as they’re happening.
“You need the broader community to step up for them (Seven) to listen and they need to see the people that are going to watch as well. At the end of the day if no one is going to watch then why would they show more?”
O’Kelly-Kennedy said this was just the first step towards a future of equal coverage of Paralympians on commercial television.
“It’s not just people with disabilities and Paralympians speaking up now.
“I can see it and it’s really exciting, it gives me goose bumps seeing all these comments (calling for more Paralympic coverage).”