Paralympics Countdown #3: Athletics

I’m off to the Festival of Quilts tomorrow, but fear not, I will do my cycling research today and schedule a post so that I stay up to date.

But without further ado, because there’s a lot to get through, let’s dip into the wonderful world of Paralympic athletics.

This is probably the area that has had the most attention in the press, mostly because of Oscar Pistorius, who was cleared to compete at the Olympics on his sprinting ‘blades’. But he’s by no means the only Paralympic sprinter out there. Not by any count.

Because there are so many classifications for athletics, there are no less than 170 medals on offer, across the track, field and road. There are groups of athletes with visual impairments, cerebral palsy (both with and without wheelchairs), intellectual disabilities, those missing limbs and 8 classifications just for wheelchair racers/throwers. Phew!

Actually, athletics is a really good place to get to grips with how classifications work. They have a T or F in front of the number depending on whether they’re competing on the track or field, then the first number tells you the type of disability. The second number indicates severity, with a lower number indicating a higher level of impairment. So even if you don’t know exactly, you know that classification T32 is for track athletes with a fairly severe disability (people with cerebal palsy who use wheelchairs, just for the record).

Most of the events are the same in the Paralympics as you’ll have already seen in the Olympics, although there are fewer disciplines. 8 running distances and 7 field events. The big different of course is that for each event as well as men’s and women’s, there could be 8 or 9 finals – all the more to watch! The only event that’s significantly different is that there’s a club throw instead of a hammer, although don’t go thinking that’s easier – I think it’s going to be one to watch. Go on, start with this awesome video of GB medal hope, Stephen Miller.

I think the main difference that I’ll notice – and remember, this is the first year I’ve followed either set of games properly – is that for some events there will be extra people on the track or field. Partially sighted or blind competitors can have a guide running with them or someone to give them audible guidance when it comes to jumping or releases. The C4 video here shows it pretty well, but I’m looking forward to seeing it for real. Cycling has a similar system, so more on that tomorrow.

Otherwise, the principles of athletics remain the same – higher, faster, longer holds true here as well, and Team GB has got plenty of medal hopefuls. Incidentally, the website that video above comes from is pretty good. It’s a Sainsburys site, but there’s lots of video content, and some interesting titbits. Check it out here, although be warned, it’s addictive, and one video leads to another! By the time we get to the opening ceremony, I think I’m going to know half Team GB by sight!

In all honesty, I can only really scratch the surface of Paralympic athletics, which runs for almost the whole stretch of the games, from the Friday right through to the last day when 4 people will medals. It’s got to be the most varied sport, and is a chance to see the fastest Paralympians on Earth.

Excited yet?


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