Row growing over lack of recognition for Paralympians in Queen's New Year Honours List

Monday, 31 December 2012
By Tom Degun

Gerry-SutcliffeDecember 30 - International Paralympic Committee President Sir Philip Craven has backed claims by Britain's former Sports Minister Gerry Sutcliffe (pictured) that the Queen's New Year Honours List made a "big mistake" in not recognising more Paralympic athletes who were successful at London 2012. 

The Queen's New Year Honours List is chosen by a special committee and this year's awards, published yesterday, saw 38 Olympians and 29 Paralympians recognised.

Paralympic cyclist Sarah Storey, who won four gold medals at London 2012, was made a Dame while wheelchair athlete David Weir was made a Commander of the British Empire (CBE) after also winning four gold medals but Sutcliffe said there was a "missed opportunity" to put Paralympic medallists on an equal footing with their Olympic counterparts.

"If you remember, at the start of the year there was confusion over whether the Olympians and Paralympians would get honours; the committee said it was unlikely," Sutcliffe told BBC Radio 4's The World This Weekend.

"We managed to get them to change their mind and have a separate category for Olympians and Paralympians."

Sutcliffe, who was Sports Minister from 2007 until 2010, added that he was particularly disappointed not to see Weir knighted after the 33-year-old Londoner won the 800, 1500 and 5000 metres T54 as well as the marathon at the Games to bring his overhaul Paralympic gold medal haul to six

Sarah Storey and David Weir at London 2012Sarah Storey (left) was made a Dame after winning four gold medals at the London 2012 Paralympics but David Weir (right) had to settle for a CBE

Olympic cyclist Bradley Wiggins and sailor Ben Ainslie were knighted as were cycling and rowing performance directors Dave Brailsford and David Tanner for their services to both Olympic and Paralympic Games.

Weir told the Daily Telegraph: "Kelly Holmes was made a dame when she won two gold medals, but it seems we have to get into double figures to get it.

"Sarah Storey should have been awarded this years ago.

"I feel that sometimes we are left out, perhaps because we are not in the public eye."

Sutcliffe backed Weir's complaint.

"There was an opportunity to be consistent and if you look at his [Weir's] record over several Paralympics I think the least he should have got is a knighthood," he said.

"The whole purpose of the Games was to inspire a generation - and how better to inspire a generation of Paralympians than to give somebody a knighthood?"

Dressage rider Lee Pearson, who won his 10th gold medal at London 2012, is also upset after receiving only a CBE in the list.

He told the Independent on Sunday that he was "disappointed" not to receive a knighthood, and added: "It's the discrepancy that pisses me off".

Pearson added: "Obviously, 10 gold, one silver and one bronze just isn't enough.

"I'm disappointed because I do feel I've given a lot to Paralympic sport and equestrianism.

"I think 10 gold medals is quite an achievement."

Pearson won three gold medals at three successive Games, in Sydney 2000, Athens 2004 and Beijing 2008 .

He won an amazing tenth gold in the team dressage at Greenwich Park, also winning a silver in the individual championship and bronze in the freestyle.

"There still seems to be a discrepancy between a Paralympic medal and an Olympic medal," said Pearson.

Lee Pearson London 2012Lee Pearson believes that he deserves to be knighted after a Paralympic career which has seen him win 10 gold medals in a career stretching back to Sydney 2000

"It's tougher to get on in normal life if you've got a disability, and then to do sport on top of that is quite an achievement, I think, but maybe the powers that be don't."

Sir Philip claimed that Weir and Pearson were right to feel disappointed.

"You can do the arithmetic and make your own conclusions." said Sir Philip.

"I think it's important to listen to what two great Paralympians think.

"The people saying maybe [Paralympians] should have a bit more, there might be a case for that."

Contact the writer of this story at tom.degun@insidethegames.biz


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