Less than 100 Days Until the 15th Paralympic Games!
It’s almost time for the 2012 Paralympic Games, one of the world’s most prominent events for elite athletes with physical disabilities. The Paralympics are held every two years in conjunction with the Olympic Games and will be held this year in London, U.K., from August 29 to September 9. This year, the Paralympics will host competitions in 20 diverse sports including Wheelchair Rugby, Powerlifting, and Rowing, for athletes with disabilities ranging from mobility disabilities to multiple sclerosis.
In many aspects the Paralympics are similar to the Olympics, but they differ in one key and unique area. Compared to conventional athletic competitions, the Paralympics base events around an athlete classification system. This system rates an athlete's ability to perform an activity in order to equitably match up participants of similar skill levels, similar to weight categories in Olympic boxing. As a result, there may be several races and medals awarded for what would be a single event in the Olympics, such as the Men’s or Women’s 100m race.
Here in Canada, preparations and training for the Paralympics are ramping up, with several articles on Canadian athletes with disabilities appearing in the news in recent days. For some athletes, training is full-time job: Joel Dembe, a wheelchair tennis player who left his job in the corporate world last year to be a full-time athlete, now spends his days rigorously training for events around the world. Dembe will represent Canada in the Paralympics later this year. Meanwhile, Cindy Ouellet, a wheelchair basketball athlete on the Canadian national team, recently told the Toronto Star that if she was given the choice that she wouldn’t change anything:
“If you were to tell me you could give me back my legs, I don’t know if I would do it because I’m happy the way I am right now.”
While the full Canadian Paralympic team won’t be announced until August, it is expected to include about 150 athletes competing in 15 sports.
Meanwhile, here in Toronto, preparations for the 2015 Pan Am and Parapan Am Games are ramping up. Construction on a new neighbourhood that will host the athletes village is beginning to get underway while the locations of many of the venues were also recently announced. While not generally as well known as the Olympics, the 2015 Toronto Pan Am Games will be one of the world's largest sporting events and will actually feature more athletes and sports than the 2010 Vancouver Olympic Winter Games. Once completed, these Games are expected to leave behind a legacy of accessible sports facilities and residences for Toronto residents to enjoy for years to come.