10 Facts About The Paralympics

The Olympic Games are over. Now it is on to Paralympic games! Did you know that Paralympic games are younger than Olympics? However, they have grown tremendously to include more than 170 countries and 4,000 elite athletes. These athletes compete in wheelchairs, with prosthetics, without senses such as hearing or sight, in more than 20 different sports.

 

1. The Paralympics made its debut in Rome in 1960 in conjunction with the summer Olympic Games.

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Photo courtesy of Paralympic.org

 

According to OUPblog.com, it all really began in 1948, when sports for athletes with impairments were widely introduced as a way of helping injured WWII vets. Dr. Ludwig Guttman was treating a number of patients wit h spinal cord injuries and organized an archery competition for wheelchair athletes. This led to the first official international competition known as Paralympic Games in 1960. Years later, the Paralympic Games expanded to include winter sports debuting in Sweden in 1976.

 

2. The word “Paralympics” means “next to the Olympics.”

The Greek word para translates to “alongside of.” Since both games occur around the same time in the same cities, original organizers used the prefix to form the name “Paralympics.”

 

3. Athletes are divided into classifications “to minimize the impact of impairment on the outcome of competition.”

A panel of international classifiers determines where athletes should be placed. For the Winter Paralympic Games, competitors with vision and physical impairments compete, and most events are divided into vision, sitting, and standing categories.

 

4. This year, the Winter Paralympics events consist of alpine skiing, biathlon, cross-country skiing, para ice hockey, snowboarding, and wheelchair curling.

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Photo courtesy of Paralympic.org

 

The Paralympic sporting events often change. For example, ice sledge racing was a competitive event until 1998, when it was eliminated from the Paralympics. In 2022, there are hopes to see bobsledding, a sport where the sleds are controlled by just one athlete at a time, included in competition.

 

5. Vision-impaired athletes compete in alpine skiing, cross-country skiing, and the biathlon.

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Photo Courtesy of empirestatewintergames.com

 

These legally blind athletes compete with a guide who assists them during their events and are ultimately responsible for their safety. For alpine skiing, guides communicate by radio, and the athletes have microphones in their ear while racing down the hill at speeds around 75 mph! For the biathlon, when it comes to the shooting portion, athletes use a specialized laser beam rifle and aim for the target via sound.

 

6. Both para ice hockey and wheelchair curling are mixed events, meaning that men and women can compete with each other.

 

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Photo courtesy of Paralympic.org

 

When it comes to wheelchair curling, athletes don’t need to use a wheelchair in daily life to compete, as the event is inclusive for those who have lower-body impairments but can still walk short distances.

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Photo courtesy of Paralympic.org

 

For para ice hockey, athletes are seated on sledges — which are basically sleds with blades — and use double-ended sticks with a spike on one end for propelling them on the ice and a blade on the other end to pass and shoot the puck. While this sport has been “open to women” since 2010, it has been male-dominated since its debut in ’94.

 

7. Norway has won the most gold medals overall for the Paralympic Winter Games.

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Photo courtesy of 1460espnyakima.com

 

Norwegians have competed in every Paralympic Winter Games since 1976 and currently have 135 gold medals.

 

8. According to Paralympic.org, overall, 48 nations and over 550 athletes are competing in 2018 in PyeongChang.

The final number of countries may still change last minute. There will be 80 total events. Snowboarding is debuting this year which will expand the medal sports to 10.

 

9. This is the first-ever Winter Paralympics that North Korean athletes are expected to compete in.

While the country has been represented in two summer games, this is the first-time that athletes have the chance to compete. Two North Korean athletes will compete in para Nordic skiing for the winter games.

 

10. And of course, the most talked about subject of the games is Russia! Athletes from Russia were banned from the games, but they are still able to participate as neutrals.

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Photo courtesy of businessinsider.com

 

Due to a widespread doping scandal, Russian athletes can only compete under a neutral flag as “Olympic Athletes from Russia” in PyeongChang after having been banned fully since Rio 2016.

 

As interesting those previous facts are, the most important fact is when and where it is all happening! The games begin on March 9th in PyeongChang in South Korea and continue until the 19th! You can watch 94 hours of television and a total of 250 hours of coverage for the Paralympics on NBC, NBCSN, Olympic Channel: Home of Team USA, NBCSports.com, and the NBC Sports app.

Go Team USA and Go Team Belarus!

 

 

 

 

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