Burnaby Paralympian Felicia Voss-Shafiq and her teammates on the Canadian women’s sitting volleyball team celebrated a major victory at the Tokyo Paralympic Games this week before even stepping on the court.
About a week before the opening of the Games, the team was told none of their matches would be broadcast or streamed until after Aug. 30.
Voss-Shafiq told the NOW the team and its supporters were “devastated.”
“We have friends and family back home who, if they could, would be here, but they can’t, so they were expecting to watch it either online or on TV,” she said in an interview from a staging camp in Shiwa, Japan Friday.
Langley’s Danielle Ellis, Voss-Shafiq’s teammate and the only other Team Canada player from B.C., took to social media to protest the move and called on others to do likewise.
“The Paralympics was started as a PARALLEL to the Olympics, but I see no parallel here,” she wrote in an Instagram post. “It certainly doesn’t feel like a step in the right direction against discrimination and ableism to me.”
She urged supporters to contact Olympic Broadcasting Services and the International Paralympic Committee to protest the decision.
“I don’t know if what we do now will allow you to watch our games during this Paralympics, but let’s make sure this never happens again,” Ellis said.
The post drew support from the Canadian Paralympic Team.
“We couldn’t agree more,” stated a comment from the team’s Instagram account.
Then, on Monday, the Canadian Paralympic Committee announced coverage would be extended to include all of the team’s games.
“The Canadian Paralympic Media Consortium, led by the Canadian Paralympic Committee, has confirmed its ability to extend coverage plans of Canada’s sitting volleyball games at the Tokyo 2020 Paralympic Games, in partnership with the International Paralympic Committee and local host broadcaster OBS,” stated at press release.
Voss-Shafiq said she was “overjoyed.”
“What an incredible win,” she wrote in a text message. “We felt really empowered and so grateful to our friends and family who supported us in effecting change – sharing our posts, sending messages, writing emails.”
Voss-Shafiq also gave a nod to the Canadian Paralympic Committee and the CBC, who “really advocated” for the team, she said.
The Paralympic Games run until Sept. 5.
The sitting volleyball team’s first preliminary match is Friday against Brazil.