Adaptive Sports Journey: 10 Exhilarating Paralympic Sports to Watch (and Play)
Photo by Arisa Chattasa
Watching Paralympic sports is both inspiring and exhilarating. Click here to learn more about each sport, and what it takes to learn the skills.
The Paralympics is an inspiring and exciting event to watch. This competition features athletes with a variety of impairments participating in high-level sporting activities.
Being involved in Paralympics sports, either as a spectator or an athlete, is a thrilling opportunity.
All of the heart, grit, and determination poured into these sporting events make for great entertainment. And you may walk away a little more motivated.
Here are 10 of the most exciting Paralympic sporting events.
Swimming is arguably one of the most exciting sports to watch. The speed at which the athletes move through the water is amazing. The close, tight finishes really make your heart pump.
Many different types of impairments can participate in swimming, making it very inclusive.
There are the typical strokes; butterfly, breast, back, and freestyle. There are also individual races and relay races. The sport runs very close to the official Olympic rules with a few exceptions.
One of the major ways that sports are adapted to suit these athletes with impairments is to play in wheelchairs.
Some of the sports that are adapted this way include rugby, basketball, tennis, and fencing. The basic rules of these games stay the same but with a few modifications to accommodate the equipment.
The agility and strength displayed by these athletes who are participating in the game while simultaneously moving their wheelchairs are so impressive.
Wheelchairs used for these events are created a little bit differently. Usually they are closer to the ground and the wheels are mounted at a different angle for more speed.
Traditional powerlifting primarily involves a move called the clean and press. Paralympic powerlifting instead involves a benchpress.
This move has the athletes laying on their backs with the bar over their chest. The bar is loaded with incredible heavyweights. The athlete then raises the bar up until their arms are straight.
These events are powerful to watch as the athletes move weights that most people could not even begin to lift.
Goalball is one of the sports that are unique to the Paralympics. It’s also probably one of the hardest!
The athletes who participate in this event are all visually impaired. Those who have little better sight than the others wear a shade to equalize the game.
There is a ball filled with bells that the players try to throw into the opposing team’s goal. The goalie has to rely solely on the sound of the bells to try to block it from making it in.
This high stakes game is face-paced and absolutely riveting.
Cycling, or bike racing, is another sport that can easily be adapted for the Paralympics with the right equipment.
Many bikes are easily modified to fit a single limb amputation and the athlete will use the bike as normal. But some have to be completely redone to allow the athlete to propel the bike forward with their hands.
Hand cycling is very intense and requires a lot from the athlete. These bikes can really get going and whiz around the course.
The adaptations necessary to work cross-country skiing into the Paralympics are very similar to those for cycling.
There are different adaptations that can be made either with prosthetics or poles. Some even use skis that have a small seat if the athlete has leg-differences. This is called a mono-ski and requires a completely different set of muscles to maneuver.
These adaptations can also be used for downhill skiing as well.
One of the most popular and commonly known amputee sports is the track and field events.
Active Life Advanced Prosthetic Limb Technologies allow the athletes to learn how to use their new prosthetics to perform these athletic feats. Prosthetic blades are made to allow for very quick motion, perfect for running a race.
Track and field at the Paralympics have the same basic events; sprints, distance runs, relays, and throwing. Each may have a few slightly different modifications but not many.
Para Ice Hockey
Para Ice Hockey (or sled hockey) is an option for those athletes with lower-limb differences who want to participate in a team sport.
They should also be prepared for a high-paced and very physical game. The game is played in basically the same was as traditional ice hockey, with the same rules and timing.
But the difference is the players are seated on a sled that has two ice blades underneath. They also have two sticks instead of one. Each stick has a traditional end for passing and shooting. The other end has metal prongs that can be used for propelling them across the rink.
This is an intense game that can get a rowdy crowd!
Another very accessible sport for those with all kinds of differences is sitting volleyball.
This sport has similar rules to traditional volleyball with a few key changes. The main being that every player must be seated on the ground. They can pivot and changes between a few positions in order to reach the ball but must remain seated.
The court is designed for this by being smaller and the net lowered. Fans of traditional volleyball will definitely find this option just as exciting.
There are many options available for those para-athletes who want to participate in water sports.
Rowing and sailing both provide opportunities for various impairments to participate. The modifications are done to the equipment and the rules stay basically the same.
Many greatly enjoy watching and participating in these other water sports.
Get Involved with Paralympic Sports
There are many Paralympic sporting events across the country, many of which are just as intense and rigorous events as you’d expect of traditional sports. The athleticism and skill on display is definitely worth paying as much attention to as any other sporting event.
Getting involved with Paralympics can have a huge impact on your life, as an athlete, volunteer, coach, or spectator. The whole community is inspiring and the sporting events couldn’t be more captivating.