Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Accessible Sports - Winter Addition

by Kirk Aranada, YO! Disabled and Proud Youth Advocate
skiier in a sit ski with poles going fast in the snow
Cross country skiing

Greetings folks! It's time for another installment of accessible sports. With the cold hitting us early this year -and to gear up for the Paralympics- we will be highlighting three competitive sports of the Paralympics: cross country skiing, sled hockey and biathlon.  All three have become extremely popular over the years and will be on full display in March for the Paralympics.  Interested in learning more about these sports or other  sports and more?  Click on this link Disabled Sports USA to find out more!

Cross country skiing has been impacted greatly by assistive technology (AT) to make it one of the premier winter sports.  The AT used is called the sit-ski which lets those that use wheelchairs enjoy this recreational and competitive sport. The sit-ski is a seat that is on a frame with two cross country skis attached at the bottom about 12 inches apart from each other, thus allowing an individual to sit with their legs extended. The skiiers use wax on the bottom of their skis to help them glide super fast. But never fear, at rental shops they do offer waxless skis for beginners.

USA sled hockey team player and a Canadian sled hockey player both go after the puck on the ice rink.
Sled Hockey

Another adaptive sport that has become hugely popular is sled hockey. Particularly in the USA, there are lots of folks following our team. The U.S. Sled Hockey team showed its dominance in the 2010 Paralympics Winter Games by winning the gold. Their goalie, Steve Cash, won an ESPN ESPY award for Best Male Athlete with a Disability!  The AT equipment that is a part of sled hockey is  similar to the sit ski. There is a frame that is attached to two skating blades and supports for being seated. However, instead of using just one hockey stick, athletes use two sticks which have multiple purposes. The athletes  have metal picks at the end of their sticks so that they can propel themselves forwards and backwards, as well as using their sticks for passing and shooting the puck. 

Last but not least is the Biathlon, which is a combination of cross country skiing and shooting, where athletes can really show their endurance.  The event has a 2.0-2.5 km course that is skied three or five times but twice within the event athletes come across two points where they must stop and shoot at two targets that are a distance of 10m away.  The AT that is used for cross country skiing was covered earlier,
2 Biathlon atheltes with their guns taking shots laying down in the snow wearing their skis
and   the AT used for shooting is also amazing.  For athletes with low vision or no vision, they are assisted with acoustic signals which helps the athlete know when they are on target.  The rifle that they are shooting with is an electronical rifle that enables the signals when aiming.  So the closer you get to the center of the target, the higher the tone will be! 

Assistive technology has paved the way for these sports to evolve and progress into the incredible competitive sports that they are today and enjoyed by many people around the world.  With still a few months to go until the Paralympics, the competitors continue to train, and excitement is building with each passing month. For some of us, the event can’t get here soon enough!

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