The Ontario ParaSport Winter Games are being held in Huntsville February 24-26, 2012. For those of you unfamiliar with the events, here’s a quick rundown for you:
ParaAlpine events are being held at Hidden Valley Highlands Ski Area and include two competitions: Slalom and Giant Slalom. Skiers with blindness or visual impairment are guided through the course by sighted guides using voice signals. Athletes with physical disabilities use equipment that is adapted to their needs including single ski, sit-ski or orthopedic aids.
ParaNordic athletes compete in a short distance sprint and middle distance race using classic or free techniques and using modified equipment if needed. An athlete with a lower-body disability uses a sledge, a specially built chair that can be attached to a pair of skis. The skis are almost identical to standard cross-country skis, although shorter, and are attached to the chair with a standard cross-country binding. Visually-impaired athletes compete with a sighted guide who uses their voice or a radio device to guide the athlete through the course.
Sledge Hockey is a fast-paced, highly physical sport played by athletes who have a physical disability in the lower part of the body, including amputees, spinal bifida, cerebral palsy and other conditions. As in Ice Hockey, teams play with six players (5 skaters and a goalie) and attempt to outscore their opponent by shooting the puck into the opposing team's goal while preventing the opposing team from scoring. Games consist of three 15-minute stop-time periods. The players are strapped into custom-made aluminum frame sledges with two blades and a runner. They use 2 double-ended sticks each. With a quick flip of the wrist, the players are able to propel themselves using the spiked end of the stick and then play the puck using the blade-end of the stick.
Wheelchair Curling is open to athletes with a physical disability in the lower part of the body. Each team must be comprised of both male and female players. The sport is played according to the rules of the World Curling Federation (WCF), with only one modification - no sweeping.
Wheelchair Basketball was designed for athletes who have physical disabilities that prevent running, jumping and pivoting. It is played by two teams of five players. The aim of each team is to score into the opponents' basket and to prevent the other team from gaining control of the ball or scoring. The measurements of the court and the height of the baskets are the same as in able-bodied Basketball.
Wheelchair Rugby was developed in Canada during the 1970s by athletes with quadriplegia. It is an intense co-ed team sport and can be very physical as athletes attempt to carry the ball over the opponent's goal line. Two teams of at least four players each compete for four periods of eight minutes each.
Swimming events are similar to those at the Olympics: Freestyle, Backstroke, Butterfly, Breaststroke and Medley. Athletes are classified based on their functional ability to perform each stroke and swim in a standard eight-lane 50m pool. Events are conducted as heats for eight competitors per class, and with the fastest eight swimmers per class competing in the finals. There are various forms for swimmers to start their race: in the water, a dive start sitting on the starting platform or the typical standing start. During a Swimming event, swimmers who are blind wear blackened goggles and are required to have an assistant to “tap” them as they approach the swimming pool end wall, either to make a turn or for the finish of the race.
More details and a schedule of events are on the Ontario Parasport Games website. We hope you’ll come out to cheer on these inspiring athletes! For those of you coming from afar, we have cottages available that weekend. You can see our availability here. (And remember, we're already taking bookings for the summer!)
We hope to see you soon!
The Howell Family