Today, there are more than 21 million Americans with a physical disability, including thousands of military personnel who sustained serious injuries during active duty over the last few years.
There are five Paralympic sports categories:
- Sledge hockey was introduced as a medal sport in the 1994 Lillehammer Games. More commonly known as sled hockey in the U.S., the sport has been played in this country since the late 1980s. Team USA won its first Paralympic medal in the sport – the gold medal – at the Salt Lake Games in 2002.
- Just as in ice hockey, sled hockey is played with six players (including a goalie) at a time. Players propel themselves on their sledge by use of spikes on the ends of two three-foot-long sticks, enabling a player to push himself as well as shoot and pass ambidextrously. Rinks and goals are regulation Olympic-size, and games consist of three 15-minute stop-time periods.
- Paralympic sled hockey competition is open to male athletes with physical disabilities such as amputation/limb loss, spinal cord injury/wheelchair-users and cerebral palsy/brain injury/stroke.
Alpine Skiing (my volunteer assignment)
- Downhill racing started as a demonstration event at the 1980 Paralympic Games in Geilo, Norway. The giant slalom was first a demonstration event in 1984, and mono-skiing was introduced in the alpine and Nordic events in 1988 at the Games in Innsbruck, Austria.
- The alpine disciplines include the same events contested in Olympic competition: downhill, slalom, giant slalom and super-G.
- Paralympic alpine skiing competition is open to male and female athletes with physical disabilities such as amputation, blindness/visual impairment, spinal cord injury/wheelchair-users and cerebral palsy/brain injury/stroke.
- Biathlon has been a part of the Paralympic Winter Games since 1992 in Tignes, France, where only the visually impaired and the standing classes competed. At Lillehammer in 1994, the sitting classes also participated. Biathletes compete using the freestyle technique.
- Biathlon combines elements of cross country skiing and sharp shooting. Athletes ski three 2.5 km loops (7.5 km total), stopping after the first two loops to shoot at five targets (10 targets total). One minute is added to the athlete’s finishing time for each miss.
Cross Country Skiing
- Cross country events have been a part of the Paralympic Winter Games since the sport was first introduced at the Ornskjoldsvik (Sweden) Games in 1976.
- Cross country races range from 2.5 km to 20 km depending on disability and gender.
- Paralympic nordic skiing competition is open to male and female athletes with physical disabilities such as amputation/limb loss, blindness/visual impairment, spinal cord injury/wheelchair-users and cerebral palsy/brain injury/stroke.
- Wheelchair curling made its debut at the 2006 Paralympic Winter Games in Torino as a medal event.
- Unlike in Olympic curling, there is no sweeping.
- Paralympic wheelchair curling competition is open to male and female athletes. A player must have significant impairments in lower leg/gait function (e.g. spinal injury, MS, double leg amputation, etc.), so that a wheelchair is used for daily mobility – more specifically, those who are non-ambulant or can walk only very short distances. Determination of minimum disability and appropriate classification is made by authorized international sports classifiers.
UPDATE: Eric Eales, a wheelchair curling expert from Canada, informed me that the current wheelchair curling rules are under discussion to possibly change after April 2010. To check out his blog go to http://wheelchaircurlingblog.blogspot.com/. Thanks Eric!
To donate to the U.S. Paralympics go to … https://secure3.convio.net/usoc/site/Donation2?1722.donation=form1&df_id=1722.