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Keeping Track of the Paralympics


Image by: Stuart Grout

The Olympics as discussed on the One show transcends simply feeling a sense of pride in our host nation, the Paralympics has a much greater role than this. It is an event which stands for more than the sum of its individual sports and a few medals.

Like the Olympics, the Paralympics is a symbol of peace, hope and even more so, of endurance.

Humble Beginnings

The Paralympics were started in 1948 by Sir Ludwig Guttman, a neurologist working in Aylesbury with veterans who had spinal injuries. He began a programme which used sport to rehabilitate patients, signifying the start of a new way of thinking on rehabilitation in general.

Guttman set up his own inter-hospital competition in the same year which coincided with the London Olympics, leading to the name Paralympics, literal translation the ‘parallel Olympics’.

Although the Olympics themselves have traditional deep roots in Ancient Greece, it is the Paralympics that will be coming home this summer, just miles away from where it’s forefather Guttman first witnessed the benefits of sport in his patients’ progress.

The growing popularity of the Paralympics can be seen through the increasing use of athletes for commercial purposes, which has gained them a greater level of exposure than ever previously afforded.

The most popular of the events and the ones I highly advise watching this year are:

Paralympic Equestrian

This is a relatively new event in Paralympic terms, introduced in Atlanta in 1996 and it’s an intensely competitive field.

Testing not only the rider but the horse as well, this proves to be one of the big highlights of the proceedings as a whole, don’t miss it!

Wheelchair Rugby

Again, adopted in Atlanta but only as a demonstration sport, this was given full event status 4 years later in Athens.

Testing both athletes and their equipment to the limit, at times it seems like a brutal affair.

The team from Great Britain were disappointed to finish outside medal contention last time around and will be looking to cement their place as one of the world’s most fearlessly competitive teams this year.

Football 5 & 7 a Side

Two sports which offer a titanic spectacle between nations, each of the events have specific stipulations with regards the kind of impairments members have.

5 aside incorporates those with difficulties such as visual impairment and shows just what amazing skill these athletes have to compete at the highest level.

I genuinely hope to catch as much Paralympics action as I can this summer, and hope that the success of the ‘test event’ (as the Olympics are called in Paralympics circles!) brings a whole new audience to such a  wide array of world class sports.

Ian Shirker writes for Mobility Aids Direct, and writes about advances in daily living aid technology. This includes everything from lightweight wheelchairs, to bathing aids, to that all needed bath cushion.

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