The Paralympics have grown from a small gathering of British World War II veterans in 1948 to become one of the largest international sporting events by the early 21st century. Paralympians strive for equal treatment with non-disabled Olympic athletes, but there is a large funding gap between Olympic and Paralympic athletes.
The Paralympic Games were designed to emphasize the participants’ athletic achievements, not their disability. The movement has grown dramatically since its early days. For example, the number of athletes participating in the Summer Paralympic Games has increased from 400 athletes in Rome in 1960 to over 3,900 athletes from 146 countries in Beijing in 2008. Both the Paralympic Summer and Winter Games are recognized internationally. The Paralympics is no longer held solely for British war veterans or just for athletes in wheelchairs, but for elite athletes with a wide variety of disabilities from all over the world.
The IPC, the global governing body of the Paralympics is comprised of 165 National Paralympic Committees and four disability-specific international sports federations. The IPC’s international headquarters are in Bonn, Germany. The IPC is responsible for organizing the Summer and Winter Paralympic Games. It also serves as the International Federation for nine sports. This requires the IPC to supervise and coordinate the World Championships and other competitions for each of the nine sports it regulates. Also under the authority of the IPC are a large number of national and international sporting organizations and federations. The IPC also recognizes media partners, certifies officials, judges, and is responsible for enforcing the bylaws of the Paralympic Charter.
There are many sports included in the Paralympic competitions. These include but are not limited to: Winter sports like alpine skiing, biathlon, cross-country skiing, ice sledge hockey, and wheelchair curling. Summer sports like powerlifting, rowing, sailing, shooting, swimming, table tennis, volleyball, wheelchair basketball, wheelchair fencing, wheelchair rugby and wheelchair tennis.
The Veterans’ Administration has recently started a grant program to eligible organizations to provide programs for disabled veterans training. These grants range from $5,000 to $25,000 per organization. These grants could potentially provide Paralympic training centers for disabled veterans who are interested in training for a Paralympic event.
Classification for the Paralympic program is divided into specific disability groups. These groups include amputees, blind and visually impaired, spinal cord injury, intellectual disability and cerebral palsy/stroke/traumatic brain injury. Specific sports competitions are open to specific disability groups.
We have a resident of LaFayette, 17-year-old Caleb Stallings, who is working hard to qualify for the biathlon event, which will include snow skiing and shooting. Caleb has been in a wheelchair since the age of four due to a car accident. I recently spoke with Caleb and his father and they are pretty excited about the competition. His dad says Caleb has never taken “no” for an answer and doesn’t give up.
Caleb has been interviewed by all three local television stations. An account has been opened at Bank of LaFayette for donations to help support him in this quest. He will need to go to Colorado Springs, Colo., for training in December. This is not cheap by any means. Caleb needs money for airfare and living expenses. If you would like to support our local youth in this worthwhile endeavor, please make a donation to this account soon.
If you would like more information on the Paralympic games, go to usparalympics.org.
Pam Rasmussen is a resident of LaFayette. She is a mother of a child with spina bifida and an advocate of special needs children and adults. She can be contacted at email@example.com.