Repurposing the (super)crip: media representations of disability at the Rio 2016 Paralympic Games

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E-pub ahead of print



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Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1-30
Number of pages30
JournalCommunication & Sport
Early online date6 Jun 2019
StateE-pub ahead of print - 6 Jun 2019


Mega-events attract ever larger media audiences, and the 2016 Rio Paralympics were no exception. As audiences – and their potential for economic returns – grow, media coverage extends to ever more varied domains, which are themselves then colonised by an increasing range of discourses. One of main discourses to develop since the early 2000s has been that of the so-called “supercrip”, one which challenges the notion of “impairment” often connected with disability by foregrounding the para-athletes’ triumph over adversity, celebrating instead their courage, grit and perseverance leading to athletic success and personal and increasingly national prestige. In this article we analyse the continuing importance of the supercrip discourse in coverage of the Rio Paralympics, but also move on to highlight its tactical alignment with other – both competing and complementary – discourses of nationalism, sexualisation, militarisation and celebritisation. We analyse textual and visual manifestations of these discourses using both Critical Discourse Analysis and Foucauldian discourse analysis. We conclude by paying particular attention to the increasing visibility of discourses which, while acknowledging the potentially positive role of the supercrip discourse in focussing on athletic success, repurpose that discourse by foregrounding instead the day-to-day experiences of belittling misrepresentation and neglect, including political neglect, and the almost entirely hidden attempts of those with disabilities to counter these.


  • parasport, media representations, supercrip, sexualisation, militarisation, politicisation