London Paralympic sports with visually-impaired participants
In the midst of the London Olympics hype, it may be forgotten that the Paralympic games, the most prestigious championship for disabled sports, commence on the 27th August 2012. Competitors must demonstrate strength, stamina and an acute sense of spatial awareness to arise triumphant. But which sports can be played by visually impaired competitors and what do they involve?
Paralympics football: 31/08/12 – 08/09/12
Football in the Paralympic games made its debut in 2004 in Athens, with 5 a-side teams. All members of the team, excluding the goalkeepers, are visually impaired. The ball makes a noise when it moves so the players can keep track of it at all times. The pitch is divided into thirds, with each team designated a sighted guide to call out instructions. And, unlike the many interruptions in sighted football, the pitch is surrounded by a rebound wall for continuous non-stop play.
Like sighted football, the game is physically demanding, with the additional requirement of an acute spatial awareness so the team members can co operate and score effectively.
Jefferson da Conceicao Goncalves was one of the star players for Brazil as the team successfully earned a gold medal at the Beijing Olympics in 2008.
Paralympics swimming: 30/08/12 – 08/09/12
For visually impaired swimmers, one of the key challenges is being aware of the other opponents’ positions and knowing when to turn for the second length. Each swimmer is assigned someone as a ‘tapper’ who uses a pole to lightly tap them when they are nearing the end wall, indicating when to turn. As with all swimming races, it is important that all the swimmers enter the competition with equal abilities. For this reason, each swimmer is provided with blackened goggles, so that those with less severe visual impairments are equally matched to blind competitors.
The swimming events will take place in the new Aquatics Centre in the Olympic Park.
Paralympics Goalball: 30/08/12 – 07/09/12
Goalball was originally played as a form of rehabilitation for soldiers returning from war since World War II. It is now one of the most popular sports played by visually-impaired competitors. The ball contains bells so the players can hear it at all times. All players wear dark eye masks to ensure the teams are equally matched in visual capabilities.
A relatively unknown sport, the aim of the game is to roll the ball at speed into the opposition’s goal, whilst their goal keeper attempts to block with their bodies. The team with the most goals wins the match.
It is essential that the players have fast reactions and excellent spatial awareness to block balls that can travel at speeds of up to 60mph. In addition, the speed of the game requires strength and good stamina.
The Goalball events this summer will take place at Copper Box in the Olympic Park.
Paralympics Judo: 30/08/12 – 01/09/12
Judo is a sport involving physical strength, awareness of the opponent and control, including skilled elements of both attack and defence. It is derived from jujitsu and was originally classified as an individual sport by Jigoro KanaI in the 19th century. In the paralympic judo events, competitors are classed according to their degree of visual impairment, with B1 competitors classed as blind, and B2/B3 with varying levels of impairment.
The game rules are identical to Olympic judo, with the exception that players must be in contact before play begins.
The 2012 Judo events will take place in the ExCel centre, London.
The Paralympic games have become part of the most prestigious championship in the world of disabled sport, with the precious gold medals becoming the ultimate goal for competitors. It is a chance for each country’s most talented athletes to prove themselves in tests of speed, strength, stamina and spatial awareness.
Victoria is a writer for Direct Sight, online retailer of glasses frames