Paralympic athlete Jonnie Peacock said ‘I was five when I lost my leg. Now I am 1.9 seconds behind Usain Bolt,’.
Paralympic games are just like the Olympics games. However, paralympics are held for people with disabilities. Are you aware of Special Olympic World Games? The visually impaired people participate in it. Also, Deaflympics are for those who are deaf. There are several categories and Olympic games held for people with different impairments. However, Paralympics is a broader category. Germany-based organization International Olympics Committee governs the functioning. The Paralympic movement gained momentum in the early year of its introduction gradually. The number of participants increased from about 400 athletes in 1960 to 4,342 in 2016.
Paralympics are the olympic games specifically for disabled people. However, it focuses on the ability of the participants rather than their disability.
HOW DID IT ALL START?
Before the introduction of the Paralympics, disabled people participated in the able-bodied Olympics. In 1904, George Eyser, an amputee athlete and gymnast, became the first one to participate in Olympics. Karoly Takacs from Hungary took part in archery. His had a right hand amputation, therefore, he played with his left hand only.However, the Paralympic movement commenced with Dr. Ludwig Guttmann. In the year 1939, during WWII, Dr. Ludwig Guttmann organized a sports competition for his veteran patients with spinal cord injuries. He worked at Stoke Mandeville Hospital and had fled for Germany during the Nazi period.
He wanted to introduce an official event for disabled patients. After four years, athletes from other countries also started taking part. Hence, the Paralympic movement gained momentum. In 1948, the first-ever event for disabled people coincided with the Summer Olympics of 1948. However, in Rome in 1960, when the first Olympic-style games were held in Sweden.
HOW ARE THEY ORGANISED?
The Paralympics consist of several sports, such as Alpine Skiing, cross-country skiing, swimming, archery, athletics, etc. There are alternations in the rules of the games according to the convenience of the participant’s disabilities. Several types of equipment are also introduced for ease. Apart from that Paralympics include broadly six categories of impairments. These include amputee, cerebral palsy, visual impairment, spinal cord injuries, intellectual disability, and ‘Les Autres’ which includes other locomotive disabilities.
After this, the categories are further subdivided into several other categories. It is according to the types of disability, status, and the extent to which they affected the participant. In the late 20th century, the Paralympics and Olympic Games are held in the same cities. The Paralympics follow the Olympics after they conclude.
ABOUT INTERNATIONAL PARALYMPIC COMMITTEE
International Paralympic Committee, based in Düsseldorf, Germany, organizes the Paralympics. The formation of the committee was on 22 September 1989. The headquarters of this global association is located in Bonn, Germany. It consists of 176 National Paralympic Committee, four international sports federations for the disabled, and four regional organizations. The committee coordinates and manages all the sports competitions and events related to the Paralympics. The tasks include listing the media partners, the adjudicators, rules and regulations, funding, and taking care of the required equipment.
The International Olympic Committee and the International Paralympic Committee work together. The alliance got official with a formal agreement in 2001. In 2018, they entered into a new agreement. The agreement then extended the contract till 2032. Due to the pandemic-induced restriction, the Paralympics of 2020 will begin on August 24, 2021, to September 5 in Tokyo, Japan.
The people with disabilities are inspiration.Their achievements proves that if you have the will, you can do anything. They teach one to embrace themselves. Learn to live with their shortcomings, and make them their strengths. Some of the milestones are:
She is a 31-year table tennis player. She is an amputee, born without a right hand. Partyka has been on the top for 20 years consecutively. The polish star partcipates in both para and able-bodied events. Moreover, she has won 4 gold medals in women’s singles as Rio 2016. She competed in both para and able-bodied. She started playing at the age of 11, thereby, becoming the youngest Paralympian in history. In her interviews she mentions that for her, the disability is nothing. Moreover, she considers herself an equal to other while playing.
Rob Davies injured his spinal cord. He paralyzed his entire body below the neck while playing rugby. Now, he has regained control over him limbs. However, he still requires a wheel-chair to move around, and he play on it too.Eventually, he recovered but resisted joining the sport back. However, he received the men’s singles class 1 table tennis gold medal at Rio 2016. Additionally, he received the gold prize at the 2019 ITTF European Para Table Tennis Championship.
Mariyappan is a Paralympian who played for India in High Jump. Unfortunately, his leg was crushed in an accident when he was a school student. He won the gold medals in the men’s high jump T-42 category in the 2016 Paralympic games held in Rio. In 2017, Padma Shri was awarded to Thangavelu. The award acknowldeged his contribution to sports in India. Additionally, the government of India awarded the Arjuna Award for his outstanding performance in sports.
Now, you must have remembered the Olympics held in Rio in 2016. But did you know that at the same time Paralympics were also held? No, right? It is because many people are not aware of it due to a lack of media coverage. In fact, unlike Olympic games, the para-athletes do not have enough funding to organize events. Moreover, they do not get financial rewards equivalent to the Olympians. Paralympians still face many challenges. However, with the passing time and increasing awareness, overcoming challenges will be possible.
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