5 Paralympic sports to watch out for at London 2012
After a two week hangover the party has started again in London. The Olympians provided the warm-up (as Channel 4 would have you believe) and now it’s the turn of the Paralympians to wow the capital’s crowds with their athletic prowess.
While many of the Paralympic events follow a similar format to those undertaken by their able-bodied peers, several of the most popular non track and field disciplines are far less familiar. Quidblog runs through five which will no doubt turn heads in September.
Competition dates: Sunday 2 – Saturday 8 September
Number of competitors: 104 – men and women compete together.
At a glance Boccia, derived from the Latin for ‘boss’, could easily be confused with bowls. After all, like it’s antecedent, the aim for participants is to throw balls as close to a jack as possible. A Paralympic sport since 1984, it was originally designed to be played by people with cerebral palsy but has since been opened to athletes with other severe disabilities affecting motor skills.
Played by men and women in pairs, teams or as individuals, two sides go head-to-head over four or six ends depending on the event. Each team gets six balls per end to aim at the jack and points are awarded for the number of balls closest to the jack in each end. Brazil and South Korea picked up the most medals in Beijing, both winning two golds each, while the Brits were victorious in the team event.
Competition dates: Thursday 30 August – Friday 7 September
Venue: Olympic Park – Copper Box
Number of competitors: 132: 72 men / 60 women
Played by visually impaired athletes and a full Paralympic sport since 1980, Goalball features two teams of three players wearing masks throwing a hard rubber ball (about the size of a football) past the opposition and into a net. Played in front of a silent crowd, the ball is loaded with bells leaving the ‘blind’ competitors to rely on their hearing to help make saves. Once in possession of the ball they have 10 seconds to take their turn.
Games are 24 minutes long, men and women compete separately and each side is allowed a maximum of 3 substitutes. With the ball flying at up to 97km per hour it’s a frantic spectacle which is sure to captivate the imaginations of the crowd. Lithuania and China are the favourites for gold, although Team GB will fancy their chances.
Competition dates: Wednesday 5 – Sunday 9 September
Venue: Olympic Park – Basketball Arena
Number of competitors: 96 – Eight mixed teams of men and women compete, with 12 athletes (four players and eight substitutes) on each team. Each country is limited to one team.
Invented in 1977 by a group of Canadian quadriplegic athletes, who were looking for an alternative to Wheelchair Basketball that would allow players with reduced arm and hand function to participate on equal terms, Wheelchair Rugby (or Murderball as it was originally named) is one of the most fiercely competitive Paralympic Sports.
Featuring two teams of four competing on a basketball court-sized playing arena, the aim is to carry the ball across the opponent’s goalline to score a try. Matches last four, eight-minute quarters with team’s allowed eight rolling substitutes – much needed given the physicality involved. Players have 10 seconds to make a pass, score or bounce the ball before a foul is awarded. Britain are currently ranked 5th in the world suggesting they’ll have a tough time getting a medal against the other 7 teams at London 2012.
Competition dates: Friday 31 August – Saturday 8 September
Venue: Olympic Park – Riverbank Arena
Number of competitors: 64 men, Eight teams with eight athletes per team.
An adaptation of association football reserved for visually impaired players, 5-a-side football is a relatively new Paralympic sport having made its debut in Athens in 2004. The four outfield players on each side wear blackout masks to ensure an equal amount of sight for each player, while the goalkeepers are sighted.
The game consists of two 25-minute halves, the pitch is surrounded by a sound-reflecting wall to help players communicate, there is no offside rule and players can be repeatedly substituted. As you might expect, the ball is equipped with a bell to help the players locate it. England are 4th in the world ranking (which should help Team GB), but unsurprisingly it is Brazil who are the favourites!
Competition dates: Thursday 30 August – Saturday 8 September
Number of competitors: 198: 110 men and 88 women. Ten teams compete in the men’s and eight teams in the women’s competitions, with 11 athletes on each team (six players and five substitutes).
The rules of Sitting Volleyball are the same as the Olympic equivalent, except for the fact that a part of the body, between the buttocks and the shoulder, must be touching the court when a shot is made. Emerging in the Netherlands in the 1950s, as a combination of Volleyball and a German game called Sitzbal, itt really began to increase in popularity during the 1960s before taking its place in the 1976 Paralympics – it has since been an ever-present.
Players are either classed as "disabled" or those with "minimal disability", with a maximum of one "minimally disabled" player allowed on the court per team. Men and women compete in different competitions, but follow the same format.
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