Olympic ideals are not something that is attainable solely by the most athletically gifted amongst us. The Paralympic competitions have become an established and respected vehicle for people to compete in a variety of sports with various disabilities.
To participate in the Paralympics, competitors must possess one of the following disabilities: visual impairment (this included total blindness), impairment of movement or some degree of paralysis due to cerebral palsy, disease or natural defect of the spinal column or amputation of part of whole limb.
Sir Ludwig Guttmann
The Paralympics is a concept that can be attributed to Sir Ludwig Guttmann. Known as ‘the father of sport for people with disabilities,’ Ludwig Guttmann (1899-1980) was one of Germanys leading neurosurgeons, working in the Jewish hospital in Breslau. He escaped the Nazi’s by fleeing to Great Britain in 1939 where he continued his work.
National Spinal Injuries Centre, Stoke Mandeville
Asked by the British Government to set up the now world renowned National Spinal Injuries Centre at Stoke Mandeville Hospital, Aylesbury in 1944, he worked with WWII veterans suffering with spinal injuries. Dr. Guttmann realised that athletic activity was an excellent form of rehabilitation. Not only did it aid recuperation it allowed the veterans to socialise with other veterans with disabilities.
The Stoke Mandeville Games
The first Stoke Mandeville Games took place on 28 July 1948, which coincided with the opening ceremony of London Olympics. Sixteen disabled British ex-servicemen and women competed in an archery competition.
The Stoke Mandeville Games became an annual event from then on, and from 1952 an international one with the inclusion of a team of Dutch competitors. This was the year that the International Stoke Mandeville Games Federation or ISMGF which was to become the International Stoke Mandeville Wheelchair Sports Federation ISMWSF was created.
The First Paralympics
In 1960, Dr. Guttmann accompanied a team of four hundred wheelchair athletes to the Olympic host city of Rome in order to compete, The Parallel Olympics or Paralympics were born.
Like the Olympic Games, the Paralympics are not without controversy. The Soviet Union, host country for the Moscow Olympics, would not allow the Paralympics competition to take place so the two thousand five hundred competitors from forty two countries switched to Arnheim, Holland.
The Paralympics is governed by the International Paralympics Committee (IPC) which is a member organisation of the IOC. Established in 1989 the official symbol of the Paralympics consists of three teardrop shapes in green, red and blue representing the three elements of the IPC motto of Mind, Body, Spirit.
Introduction to and History of Paralympic Powerlifting
Paralympic powerlifting is a sport in which disabled athletes compete to see which athletes can lift the greatest amount of weight. Both men and women compete in the sport, with 10 weight classes available for each sex. In the sport, disabled athletes are categorized by their total body weight rather than the type or severity of their disability. Athletes are given three attempts to lift the most weight possible.
Introduction of Powerlifting into the Paralympic Games
Powerlifting was contested for the first time at the 1964 Paralympic Games in Tokyo. At the time, only men’s events were available, and only athletes with spinal cord injuries competed. The 1964 Paralympic athletes did a lift fashioned after a dead lift press.
Paralympic powerlifting has evolved quite a bit since the 1964 Paralympic Games. Today, amputee athletes, as well as those with dwarfism, cerebral palsy and many other disabilities, are eligible to compete in the Paralympic Games. Women’s Paralympic powerlifting was introduced at the 2000 Sydney Paralympic Games.
Powerlifting Rules and Regulations for Disabled Athletes
Today, the rules for Paralympic power lifts are very similar to the rules for lifts done by able-bodied athletes. At the Games, disabled athletes compete in a bench press event in which the athlete must lower the bar, hold it motionless at their chest, and raise the bar back to the starting position in a seamless, fluid motion. Athletes lay on a bench that is 40-50 cm off the ground to complete the lift.
Athletes are most commonly disqualified for not fully extending their arms when they raise the bar, not lifting the bar in a single, fluid movement, or not holding the bar motionless on their chest.
Origins of Paralympic Powerlifting
Powerlifting was developed and first practiced by the Greek and the Egyptians. It is one of the oldest Olympic and Paralympic sports.
The sport has grown steadily since it’s introduction to the Paralympic Games in 1964. Today, more than 5,500 athletes compete in more than 115 countries. Egypt and China have historically been the most dominant in international competition.
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