Backlash of the Paralympians: Athletes claim double standards in sport honours

They were hailed as heroes in the summer. Now, they feel they have lost out in the New Year Honours List compared with able-bodied athletes. And they are very, very angry

Leading Paralympians hit out last night at what they felt was double standards in the New Year Honours list in which multi-gold-medal-winning Paralympians missed out on the highest gongs.

Cyclist Sarah Storey was the only Paralympic athlete to be given the top award of a dame or knighthood, despite many Paralympians racking up far more gold medals than cyclist Bradley Wiggins or the sailor Ben Ainslie, the two Olympians knighted in this year's list.

Among those criticising the 2013 list is the dressage rider Lee Pearson OBE, who told The Independent on Sunday he was "disappointed" not to get a knighthood after winning his 10th gold medal at the Paralympics this summer, adding: "It's the discrepancy that pisses me off."

Six-times gold-medal-winning wheelchair racer David Weir, who was appointed CBE, also said that Paralympians have to win more medals to get the highest accolades.

Sir Philip Craven, president of the International Paralympic Committee and a former GB Paralympian, said the number of Paralympians being recognised with the top awards was not equal with Olympians and added he hoped there would be greater parity after Rio in 2016.

Pearson said: "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's gold medal tally is bigger than Wiggins's and Ainslie's put together, and he believes his case illustrates that Paralympic and Olympic medals are still not valued equally. "There still seems to be a discrepancy between a Paralympic medal and an Olympic medal. 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."

The disparity in the number of honours does not reflect the performance of Britain's Paralympians at the 2012 Games. Paralympics GB won 120 medals, including 34 golds, 43 bronze and 43 silver, putting them third in the medal table. Team GB's Olympians also came third in the medal table, with 29 gold medals, 17 silver and 19 bronze.

David Weir, who won four gold medals at London 2012, was the only Paralympian to be appointed CBE, though four Olympians (Mo Farah, Jessica Ennis, Katherine Grainger and Victoria Pendleton) were honoured. The picture was similar for OBEs: four Olympians and two Paralympians were appointed OBE. The numbers of MBEs – the lowest honour – were more equal, though 28 Olympic athletes as against 24 Paralympic athletes were appointed.

Weir said: "It's a weird one, how they choose it. Sometimes it seems that Paralympians have to win lots and lots of medals to get a damehood or a knighthood." Speaking to The Daily Telegraph yesterday, he added: "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. It is a bit strange, but I am just honoured to get anything from the Queen for doing a sport I love."

Last night, the Paralympic sprint gold medallist Jonnie Peacock, who was awarded an MBE, posted on Twitter: "Repping the para athletics guys!! Has to be said though, how much more does @davidweir2012 have to do to get a knighting?!"

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

A spokeswoman for the British Paralympic Association said: "The Paralympic Games showed that the public value a Paralympic medal in the same way as an Olympic medal, but this has not always been the case. It is understandable that some of the athletes whose historical achievements were not recognised in the same way as those achievements in 2012 are expressing frustration. This is the most balanced honours list that we have seen in the history of Paralympic sport in terms of recognising achievement, and we recognise that it is in incredibly difficult task to apportion honours after such a phenomenal year. However, there is still an element of 'catch up' to happen."

The list was drawn up by the Sports Honours Committee, which is chaired by Lord Coe and includes the former Paralympian Baroness Tanni Grey-Thompson. Four main criteria are used: sporting excellence, longevity of career, what the athlete has given back to their sport, community or charity, and what honours they have already received.

Grey-Thompson said: "It's hard. I don't think you can compare the Olympics and Paralympics. The honours system is the fairest it's ever been in terms of the number of Paralympians winning awards. Some people may feel it's not fair. But every gold-medal-winning Paralympian has been honoured, which wasn't the case in previous years."

A Cabinet Office spokesman said: "After a glorious summer of British sport we wanted to recognise the outstanding achievements of our Olympians and Paralympians."

New Year honours

Paralympians

Lee Pearson CBE

Still no knighthood after winning 10 gold medals, 1 silver and 1 bronze between 2000 and 2012. Made a CBE in 2009 after he had 9 golds.

Dame Sarah Storey

Made a dame only this year after winning 11 gold medals, 8 silver and 3 bronze between 1992 and 2012.

Mike Kenny MBE

The swimmer holds the Paralympic medal record, winning 16 gold and 2 silver between 1976 and 1988. He was only made an MBE in 1989.

Baroness Tanni Grey-Thompson

She won 11 gold medals, 4 bronze and a silver before she was made a dame in 2005.

Olympians

Sir Chris Hoy

Awarded a knighthood in 2008 after winning 4 golds in two Olympics.

Sir Ben Ainslie

Awarded a knighthood this year after getting 4 golds and a silver at consecutive Olympics.

Dame Kelly Holmes

Made a dame in 2005 after winning 2 gold medals and 1 bronze.

Sir Bradley Wiggins

Knighted this year after winning the Tour de France and 4 gold medals, 2 bronze and a silver over four Games.

The 2013 list

Dame or Knight 1 Paralympian and 2 Olympians

OBE 4 Olympians and 2 Paralympians

CBE 4 Olympians and 1 Paralympian

MBE 28 Olympians and 24 Paralympians

Olympians vs Paralympians

Paralympic medals 120 medals (34 gold; 43 bronze; 43 silver)

Olympic medals 65 medals (29 gold; 17 silver; 19 bronze)

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebookA unique anthology of reporting and analysis of a crucial period of history
News
A 1930 image of the Karl Albrecht Spiritousen and Lebensmittel shop, Essen. The shop was opened by Karl and Theo Albrecht’s mother; the brothers later founded Aldi
people
News
Lane Del Rey performing on the Pyramid Stage at Glastonbury 2014
people... but none of them helped me get a record deal, insists Lana Del Rey
Life and Style
fashion Designs are part of feminist art project by a British student
Arts and Entertainment
Dwayne 'The Rock' Johnson stars in Hercules
filmReview: The Rock is a muscular Davy Crockett in this preposterous film, says Geoffrey Macnab
News
i100
Arts and Entertainment
British author Howard Jacobson has been long-listed for the Man Booker Prize
books
Life and Style
tech
Arts and Entertainment
Standing the test of time: Michael J Fox and Christopher Lloyd in 'Back to the Future'
filmA cult movie event aims to immerse audiences of 80,000 in ‘Back to the Future’. But has it lost its magic?
Sport
Louis van Gaal watches over Nani
transfers
Arts and Entertainment
Flora Spencer-Longhurst as Lavinia, William Houston as Titus Andronicus and Dyfan Dwyfor as Lucius
theatreThe Shakespeare play that proved too much for more than 100 people
News
exclusivePunk icon Viv Albertine on Sid Vicious, complacent white men, and why free love led to rape
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Systems Analyst (Technical, UML, UI)

£30000 - £40000 Per Annum + excellent benefits: Clearwater People Solutions Lt...

Cost Reporting-MI Packs-Edinburgh-Bank-£350/day

£300 - £350 per day + competitive: Orgtel: Cost Reporting Manager - MI Packs -...

Senior Private Client Solicitor - Gloucestershire

Excellent Salary: Austen Lloyd: Senior Private Client Solicitor - We are makin...

Microsoft Dynamics AX Support Developer

£50000 per annum + benefits: Progressive Recruitment: A unique and rare opport...

Day In a Page

Noel Fielding's 'Luxury Comedy': A land of the outright bizarre

Noel Fielding's 'Luxury Comedy'

A land of the outright bizarre
What are the worst 'Word Crimes'?

What are the worst 'Word Crimes'?

‘Weird Al’ Yankovic's latest video is an ode to good grammar. But what do The Independent’s experts think he’s missed out?
Can Secret Cinema sell 80,000 'Back to the Future' tickets?

The worst kept secret in cinema

A cult movie event aims to immerse audiences of 80,000 in ‘Back to the Future’. But has it lost its magic?
Facebook: The new hatched, matched and dispatched

The new hatched, matched and dispatched

Family events used to be marked in the personal columns. But now Facebook has usurped the ‘Births, Deaths and Marriages’ announcements
Why do we have blood types?

Are you my type?

All of us have one but probably never wondered why. Yet even now, a century after blood types were discovered, it’s a matter of debate what they’re for
Honesty box hotels: You decide how much you pay

Honesty box hotels

Five hotels in Paris now allow guests to pay only what they think their stay was worth. It seems fraught with financial risk, but the honesty policy has its benefit
Commonwealth Games 2014: Why weight of pressure rests easy on Michael Jamieson’s shoulders

Michael Jamieson: Why weight of pressure rests easy on his shoulders

The Scottish swimmer is ready for ‘the biggest race of my life’ at the Commonwealth Games
Some are reformed drug addicts. Some are single mums. All are on benefits. But now these so-called 'scroungers’ are fighting back

The 'scroungers’ fight back

The welfare claimants battling to alter stereotypes
Amazing video shows Nasa 'flame extinguishment experiment' in action

Fireballs in space

Amazing video shows Nasa's 'flame extinguishment experiment' in action
A Bible for billionaires

A Bible for billionaires

Find out why America's richest men are reading John Brookes
Paranoid parenting is on the rise - and our children are suffering because of it

Paranoid parenting is on the rise

And our children are suffering because of it
For sale: Island where the Magna Carta was sealed

Magna Carta Island goes on sale

Yours for a cool £4m
Phone hacking scandal special report: The slide into crime at the 'News of the World'

The hacker's tale: the slide into crime at the 'News of the World'

Glenn Mulcaire was jailed for six months for intercepting phone messages. James Hanning tells his story in a new book. This is an extract
We flinch, but there are degrees of paedophilia

We flinch, but there are degrees of paedophilia

Child abusers are not all the same, yet the idea of treating them differently in relation to the severity of their crimes has somehow become controversial
The truth about conspiracy theories is that some require considering

The truth about conspiracy theories is that some require considering

For instance, did Isis kill the Israeli teenagers to trigger a war, asks Patrick Cockburn