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Physically Challenged Athletes And Wounded Warriors In The Paralympics

Updated on May 13, 2016
Patty Inglish, MS profile image

Ms. Inglish has 30 years' experience in medicine, psychology, STEM instruction, history, and aerospace education for USAF Civil Air Patrol.

Diversity In The Olympics

The Paralympic Games do not garner as much media play as the Olympic Games in any year, but they are gaining attention once 2010 media coverage expanded.

However, the Vancouver 2010 Paralympic Games came full into view, because a large number of service men and women returning from Iraq and Afghanistan with missing limbs competed. These individuals, along with others that have met physical challenges with courage and grace, are able to compete well in the Olympics for those with physically disabilities.

In fact, as of the 2010 Winter Paralympic Games, more than one Paralympian has come very close to qualifying for the "regular" Olympics. In fact, an uproar arose in which some factions maintained that Paralympians had an unfair advantage over the non-handicapped, because of their specialized equipment. Some people feel that this is a case of "not good enough" followed suddenly by "over qualified."

Another distinction of the 2010 Vancouver Paralympics is that the Four Host First Nations were instrumental in organizing and operating the Paralympics and many related events and activities, as well as in the just-completed 2010 Winter Olympics on First Nation Lands. The year 2010 saw the first set of Olympics-Paralympics to include First Nations/Native Americans as full partners in the operation of the Games.

Wheelchair Curling

IX Paralympics Winter Games, Torino 2006. (Photos this page, public domain).
IX Paralympics Winter Games, Torino 2006. (Photos this page, public domain).

An Amputee Makes History

History in 2011 Made by Double Amputee -- South African Oscar Pistorius is being called a "legend," an "inspiration," and a "hero." That's because on August 27, 2011 he will be the first amputee to race in an able-bodied event.

SSG Heath Calhoun - How to Give Up A Wheelchair

Who Are the Paraympians?

It is sad to say that some individuals will not watch or support the Summer or Winter Paralymics Games, because they think that the Games include the same athletes who participate in Special Olympics Games in each US State every year. In short and to be blunt, the naysayers call the Paralympians "retarded," Knowing nothing about them. The Special Olympians themselves are not a group of "retarded" individuals.

The Special Olympics was begun as a vision by the 20th Century Kennedy family to honor their sister Rose Marie, who unfortunately received a frontal lobotomy as treatment for mild mental retardation. The Games do include some young adults that have some degree of developmental delay, but also include young people with certain birth defects and youth that have lost an arm or leg or even more limbs in accidents. See a full history of the Special Olympics here: Special Olympics and Hope. Both the Special Olympics and Paralympic Games are now a tribute also to Edward Kennedy, Jr., who lost a leg to cancer and learned to ski, anyway.

No Olympian of any kind is "retarded." All Olympians overcome obstacles, whether it is the lack of arms and legs or having to forego a social life, career, and TV to practice 18 hours a day and heal from injuries suffered in the mix.

Torino 2006: Alexi Salamone from Ukraine and USA

Today's Paralympians

Some of the athletes at the Vancouver 2010 Paralymics (March 12 - 21, 2010) and previous Games are:

Mr. Heath Calhoun, USA. - Mr. Calhoun lost both of his legs while serving in the US Armed Forces in Iraq. There, he was a Squad Leader for the 101st Airborne. The Disabled Sports USA Wounded Warrior Project taught Mr. Calhoun how to ski without legs. Moreover, the Paralympics became a key in his rehabilitation. Mr. Health Calhoun is the US Flag Bearer for the 2010 Vancouver Winter Paralympics Opening Ceremonies. He is 20 years old in 2010 and competes in the sitting division of three events: Men's Downhill, Slolam, and Super-G

Paraskevi Christodoulopoulou, Greece. Nicknamed "Vivi", at age 43 this lady is an architectural designer. She also dances, shoots archery, is an equestrian, and does rifle shooting. Her winter events for 2010 are the stadning divisons of the Women's Slalom and Super Slalom.

Dr. Tynan Ronan- I began collecting the vocal CDs Dr. Ronan has recorded after hearing his performance of The Impossible Dream in a holiday show broadcast on national television. Today, he is one of the prestigious Irish Tenors, who are on par with the Three Tenors that included Pavarotti and Domingo. Dr. Ronan was born with a physical condition of the lower legs and after an autio accident as a young man, had a double amputation. Within just weeks, though, he was training sports. At the Summer Paralymics, he won 18 Gold Medals, setting 14 World Records.

The number of nations and athletes participating in the Winter Paralympics increases each year. A total of 502 men and women from many nations are listed at the 2010 Winter Paralympic Games. Originally, 506 registered for 2010, up just 30 athletes from the 2006 Winter Games in Torino.

Paralympics: Man Is Mountain

"Video credit: VANOC; No copyright infringement intended," by vancouverite1989 on Youtube.

Ice Sledge Hockey Symbol

What Are the Paralymic Winter Sports?

The winter sports included in the 2010 Parlymics include

  1. Ice Sledge Hockey - This is a men's competition. No women's teams have as yet been formed.
  2. Men's and Women's Alpine Skiing - Downhill (three divisions: standing, sitting, visually impaired), Super-G (same three divisions), Super Combined (same divisions), Super Combined Super-G (same divisions), Super Combined Slalom (same divisions), Giant Slolam (same divisions).
  3. Men's and Women's Cross Country Skiing - Regualr, Free-Style and Classic at various distances; Relay; and Sprint and Sprint Classic (each has three divisions: standing, sitting, visually impaired).
  4. Men's and Women's Biathlon (same divisions as skiing)
  5. Wheelchair Curling - Teams are co-ed, including both men and women. 

The Monoski Adaptation

Sgt. Anthony Larson with his adaptive ski instructor at Vail, Colorado in 2007. Sgt. Larson lost his right leg below the knee while serving in Iraq.
Sgt. Anthony Larson with his adaptive ski instructor at Vail, Colorado in 2007. Sgt. Larson lost his right leg below the knee while serving in Iraq.

Even athletes who can use both legs are adopting the monoski! France and America are the number countries for this expansion.

Chasing Shadows Sneak Peek: Monopalooza

© 2010 Patty Inglish MS


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