SIMILAR to the Olympics, the Paralympics were created for disabled individuals who have a passion for sports.
Let’s go back in time — 50 years back — when the Paralympics were born. The event was created thanks to the efforts of Ludwig Guttmann, a doctor from England who hosted a sports competition for British World War II veterans who had spinal cord injuries. He was known as the “father of sports for people with disabilities.”
It didn’t stop there. Ludwig wanted to make the Paralympics equivalent to the Olympic Games. The first Paralympics were held in Rome in 1960. Four hundred athletes from 223 countries took part. The games started with only wheel-chaired athletes, but George Eyster, an American gymnast, broke the tradition by becoming the first Paralympics athlete to have a prosthetic leg.
Dr Ludwig died in 1980, but his contributions for the disabled will always shine. He started off a special tournament for special people, where they can continue to be special. Today, the Paralympics start after the Olympics with 20 sports for competitors.
Here are some of the games at the Paralympics:
If you think that the handicapped can’t ride a bicycle, think again. For those who are blind, a tandem (a bicycle for two riders) is used where the athletes sit on the back seat and a rider who can see clearly rides the bike in the front seat. For the rest, the invention of a hand-cycle allows those who are paralysed below the waist to cycle.
This is one of the most dynamic games in the Paralympics arena. Wheelchair basketball was also used as a rehabilitation exercise for soldiers. For the game to be fair, every player is assigned a point based on his or her functional ability, from 1 (players with least physical function) to 5 (greatest physical function). Players with a 4.5 or above point value are not allowed to compete internationally.
This game is for athletes who are blind. In this game, the players wear blackout eyeshades so that all players can compete fairly. This was actually a rehabilitation exercise for injured soldiers who had returned from World War II. It is one of the most popular Paralympics sports with over 100 countries participating in this game.
Even if one is wheelchair bound, one can still be a good fencer. In the Paralympics, you are required to have plenty of hand-eye coordination, tactics and techniques. As a fast-paced sport with ferocious fighters, it’s definitely a much-awaited show.
We should not look down at the disabled. They too have a sporting spirit and strive to bring home fame and glory.
The most fast-paced game at the Paralympics started in the Netherlands in the 50s. Sitting volleyball is played by players with amputated limbs, spinal cord injuries, cerebral palsy and brain injuries and those who have suffered a stroke. It is played in a 10x6-metre court with a 3-metre-high net.
I bet most of you don’t know what it is. Boccia is similar to lawn bowling. It is played on a rectangular court. Athletes try to land balls as close as possible to a target ball, no doubt with many challenges. One does not need physical mobility, but various tactics and skills are important for participants to ace the event.
By Jemima Darma Raj, 15, Kedah , Priyangka John Jayaraj, 15, Johor, Eer Kai Song and Sivesh Sangar, both 17, Selangor