Almost everyone knows about the Olympic Games, but not everyone knows about or understands what the Paralympic Games are. The Paralympic Games begin in Rio de Janiero on September 7, with the opening ceremony just like the Olympic Games.
Paralympic actually means “around” the Olympics and does not identify a specific disability type. The Paralympic Games are held at a time around the time of each Olympic Games. The 2016 Paralympic Games consist of 23 sports and over 4000 athletes from more than 170 countries are expected to attend. Athletes compete against other athletes with similar disability levels. New to the Paralympic Games this year is canoeing.
In the past, I have had the opportunity to volunteer at many sporting events for athletes with disabilities, including the 1996 Atlanta Paralympic Games. I was privileged to see one of my best friends, Larry Hughes, win a gold medal in the discus and set a Paralympic record while I was working! Although the hours were long (the athletic events were held in the morning and evening due to heat with practice sessions in the afternoons) I wouldn’t have traded the time spent working with such amazing athletes from all over the world.
In Rio this year, one of the athletes to watch is a young woman named Tatyana McFadden. I have had the pleasure of watching her grow up as an athlete while competing in local wheelchair sports competitions. Keep you eye on her in all of the women’s wheelchair events, from the 100m to the marathon!
Another American to watch is Matt Stutzman, aka the “Armless Archer.” In Judo, look for American Dartanyon Crockett to medal. On the courts, look for the USA men’s wheelchair basketball to be a force to beat. You can catch the action at www.nbc.com and www.teamusa.org.
* Photo Credit Larry Hughes, 1996 Paralympics Medal Winner