Ever since I was a kid I was always the athlete drawn to the competition that sports have to offer (and pretty much every aspect about them). I think that anybody who knows me fairly well would have some story to tell about a particular practice, game or moment where I was completely caught up in a sport. Now when I say caught up I do not mean busy, I mean 110% engaged and committed to every little detail and play that was going on. As I sit at my desk writing this post, I can honestly say that even as a 21year old college student, sports are my escape. I have always said that sports are amazing. I could be the most stressed out student on campus thinking about everything I need to get done and within thirty seconds of playing intramural basketball, every little worry in the world is gone. This blog is by no means about me but seeing the determined faces of the Paralympic athletes exhausting themselves in competition in the videos I have watched brought all of these thoughts back and much more.
I think a lot of people who are born with handicaps simply rule sport out of the question due to fear, nerves, or doubt. The Paralympics serve as an inspiration of countless success stories of people who have not let their adversity stop them from pursuing a love or passion. There are now 21 summer sports comprised of over 500 events in the summer Paralympic games and 5 winter sports with 64 events. What I found to be incredible is how individuals with certain handicaps are able to make the sports they compete in come so easy and natural. Being able to play a sport at any level can be exhausting and these athletes are finding ways to excel in a manner that I do not think a lot of people are even aware of.
For instance, how many of you reading this would have ever said or thought that someone with a lower limb injury confined in a wheel chair could do the waltz, tango and rumba in the Paralympics? I for one really struggled to picture how this was possible but once again, I was wrong. Within seconds of watching I was overly impressed with the elegance, grace, and skill these athletes were able to show. Those who compete in wheelchair dancing can either dance with an able bodied partner or with someone else in a wheelchair. The sport is so beautiful to watch that pairs have even been featured on the hit Television show ‘Dancing with the Stars’.
There are so many sports to choose from but sitting volleyball was another Paralympic game that did nothing but leave me in awe. As a former volleyball player in high school I honestly could not image the sport possible without being able to jump or stand. In sitting volleyball there are six athletes on each side who must keep their pelvises on the ground at all times. While the net and court sizes are significantly lower, the athletes are still playing a best of five sets with each game to 25. Aside from these rules, the play of the game is astonishingly exactly like volleyball with sets, blocks and constant hustle. I was beyond shocked to see how fast these athletes were able to move on the floor to keep the play alive and witness the speed and power they hit the ball.
Even though many of the Paralympic games have names we are accustomed to, they are played like no other sport we have seen. The passion and intensity you witness combined with the sheer talent these athletes have is a site that everybody should view at some point. I was not able to discuss a lot of the incredible sports played so I can encourage all readers to PLEASE go on the International Paralympic website below to read and watch the accomplishments achieved by these athletes!