Wednesday, July 29, 2015

A boy who happens to have cerebral palsy does a triathlon: the viral video

Bailey Matthews, an 8-year-old from Nottinghamshire, England, completed his first triathlon this weekend. Check out the video, which is going viral worldwide:


Oh, how I love that look of pure ebullience on Bailey's face as he nears the finish line. As the parent of a child with cerebral palsy, I appreciate the effort that went into this triumph. Mostly, though, I am impressed with Bailey's athleticism; he completed a 100-meter swim, 4,000 meter bike ride and 1,300 meter run. How many of us could pull that off?! So it makes me wince when I see people largely focused on the idea of Bailey completing a triathlon despite his disability.

Bailey's prowess is impressive, period; same goes for athletes competing in the 2015 Special Olympic World Games. Their physical and mental strength is something to celebrate, but that wasn't the angle some of the news coverage took with Bailey. "This story will melt your heart," read the blurb on YouTube from BBC News. Bailey "shows bravery," proclaimed a BBC headline. I won't even get into the unfortunate British way of referring to someone with CP as a "cerebral palsy sufferer."

Bailey isn't brave—he did what he set out do do. That's known as "determination" and "drive." Calling his accomplishment heartwarming or courageous (typically used to define doing something scary) detracts from this boy's athletic abilities.

As Bailey's father, Jonathan (himself a triathlete) told the Yorkshire Post, "The majority of what he does is self-propelled. He sets his own goals when he is swimming and says, 'I am going to do x amount of meters today.'" Said his mother, Julie, "We knew he would do it but I didn't expect the reaction from everyone else. The difficult thing is that for us it is normal. We know how amazing he is."


  1. This is exactly how I think about it! I mean, yes, of course (or presumably), Bailey's cerebral palsy made one or more of the events more difficult for him. But that would be the same if he had one of myriad other "conditions"; basically, anything that keeps one from being in some mythical "perfect" shape. No one singles out as "special" adult athletes who are overweight or have joint stiffness, even though those issues could easily have the same kinds negative effects on endurance. I think we should all just focus on the fact that an 8 year old--ANY 8 year old--pulled off something that most of us fully-grown (well...I'm 4'11) folks can only dream of; that he did it while probably needing to work harder than most kids should only add to our exhilaration, not be the sole cause of it.

    (Oh, and to answer your question? I absolutely could not do ANY of the Triathlon parts, let alone all of them together...and NOT because of any of my disabilities. I just don't possess either the innate athletic ability or the internal desire to try to achieve it needed to succeed at such a thing.)

  2. Bailey brought this challenge on himself and he completed it in the same way that I bring academic challenges upon myself and complete them. I cannot complete a triathlon, but my friend can.

    (Read this!

  3. For me it was Bailey's joy of finishing that I loved. What a smile - it doesn't get any better than that and I think the rest of what he did from then on just followed. Carol S


Thanks for sharing!

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...