Okay, so here’s my bid to redress a balance that I’m guilty of tipping, as much as anyone.

In all the razzmatazz of London 2012, the imminent start of another event is (possibly) being overlooked.

I’m talking about the Paralympics.

It’s less than a week now, till the Games begin. The flames were lit yesterday (Aug. 22nd), on the four highest mountain peaks of Great Britain – one each, in England, Scotland, Wales, and Northern Ireland.

And I confess to knowing little or nothing about the events involved.

So, I turned to the good people at the official London 2012 Paralympics website:

http://www.london2012.com/paralympics/sports/

for some facts and figures. And I’ll be giving you a series of articles to acquaint you with what’s involved.

Hey, if by my efforts here I can contribute to the viewership or following of the Games in some way, I’m more than happy to do so.

Let’s begin, with Archery, Athletics, and Boccia.

Archery, Athletics, and Boccia

Archery

Archery was originally employed as a means of rehabilitation and recreation for people with a physical disability.

Procedures and rules for Paralympic Archery are nearly identical to those used in able-bodied (Hmm. I prefer the term ‘mainstream’, so I’ll be using it, from now on) competition.

Competition arrows are made of carbon graphite with an inner tube of aluminum.

The competition is due to take place at the Royal Artillery Barracks, and will involve some 140 competitors: 88 men, and 52 women in the following events:

Men’s competition

Men’s Individual Compound – W1
Men’s Individual Compound – Open
Men’s Individual Recurve – W1/W2
Men’s Individual Recurve – Standing
Men’s Team Recurve – Open

Women’s competition

Women’s Individual Compound – Open
Women’s Individual Recurve – W1/W2
Women’s Individual Recurve – Standing
Women’s Team Recurve – Open

Each country is limited to three athletes in each Individual event, and one team of three athletes in each Team event.

Athletes line up along a shooting line, 70m from the targets.

The object of the sport is simple: to shoot arrows as close to the center of a target as possible. As with mainstream Olympic Archery, targets are 122cm in diameter, with the gold ring at the center (worth a maximum 10 points) measuring just 12.2cm.

At the start of the competition all athletes take part in a ranking round. Athletes must shoot 72 arrows in 12 phases of six arrows each, with each athlete allowed four minutes per phase. The total score of all 72 arrows determines the rankings of each athlete. These are then used to make the draw for both the Individual and the Team competitions.

In the Individual event, matches are the best of five sets, with each set consisting of three arrows per athlete.

In the Team event, teams of three compete against each other in a best-of-24-arrows format.

Scoring judges sit in a protected area called a blind. Sitting with them is a spotter, who records each athlete’s score with the aid of a telescope.

As with their mainstream Olympic counterparts, athletes compete with both recurve bows – distinctive as the limbs curve outwards at the top – and compound bows, which feature mechanical pulleys, telescopic sights and release aids to assist in accuracy.

Men and women compete separately, both as individuals and in teams of three, and all matches are conducted as straight knockouts.

No sport has as great a Paralympic history as Archery. It featured at the first Stoke Mandeville Games in 1948 (the modern Paralympic Games’ predecessor), and has featured on every Paralympic program since the inaugural competition in 1960.

Antonio Rebollo of Spain shot Paralympic Archery into the big time by famously firing a flaming arrow to light the Olympic Flame at the Opening Ceremony of the Barcelona 1992 Olympic Games.

Athletics

The Athletics competition is the largest sport at the Paralympic Games. 1,100 athletes (740 men, 360 women) will compete for 170 gold medals across track, field and road events.

Each country has been given a quota, which is limited to 80 athletes across all events.

The majority of races on the track start with heats, with the fastest athletes progressing to semi-finals and the best athlete eventually winning in the final. No track event will have more than three stages – heats, semi-finals, final.

All field events are straight finals, although in some seated throw competitions, in which large numbers of athletes are entered, the athletes start their competition in two groups and the best eight compete together for their final three trials.

Some athletes compete in wheelchairs or throwing frames, others with prostheses, and others with the guidance of a sighted companion.

Wheelchair athletes will be penalized for illegal overtaking, and visually impaired athletes who use a guide runner must cross the finish line before their guide or they will be disqualified.

To ensure that competition is fair, athletes are grouped into classes according to how much their impairment impacts on their event-specific performance.

Classes 11-13 are for athletes with a visual impairment.
Class 20 is for athletes with an intellectual impairment.
Classes 31-38 are for athletes with cerebral palsy, with classes 31 to 34 using a wheelchair to compete.
Classes 40-46 are for athletes with a loss of limb or limb deficiency.
Classes 51-58 cover wheelchair racers or field athletes who throw from a seated position.

In each class, the first digit indicates the nature of an athlete’s impairment, and the second indicates the amount of functional ability the athlete has. The lower the second number, the greater the impact on their ability to compete.

A T or an F before each two-digit number shows whether the athlete is competing in a track event or a field event.

There are three main strands to the Athletics competition:

1. Track events: divided into sprints, middle distance, long distance events and relays.

2. Field events: divided into throwing and jumping.

3. Road events: the Marathon.

The full list is as follows:

Men’s 100m – T11
Men’s 100m – T13
Men’s 100m – T35
Men’s 100m – T37
Men’s 100m – T44
Men’s 100m – T42
Men’s 100m – T51
Men’s 100m – T54
Men’s 200m – T12
Men’s 200m – T36
Men’s 200m – T34
Men’s 200m – T37
Men’s 200m – T44
Men’s 200m – T42
Men’s 200m – T53
Men’s 400m – T13
Men’s 400m – T38
Men’s 400m – T46
Men’s 400m – T53
Men’s 800m – T12
Men’s 800m – T13
Men’s 800m – T37
Men’s 800m – T52
Men’s 800m – T54
Men’s 1500m – T11
Men’s 1500m – T46
Men’s High Jump – F42
Men’s Marathon – T12
Men’s 5000m – T12
Men’s Long Jump – F11
Men’s Marathon – T54
Men’s Long Jump – F36
Men’s Long Jump – F37/38
Men’s Long Jump – F42/44
Men’s Triple Jump – F11
Men’s Triple Jump – F46
Men’s Shot Put – F20
Men’s Shot Put – F32/33/34
Men’s Shot Put – F42/44
Men’s Shot Put – F52/53
Men’s Shot Put – F57/58
Men’s Discus Throw – F35/36
Men’s Discus Throw – F44
Men’s Discus Throw – F11
Men’s Discus Throw – F40
Men’s Discus Throw – F51/52/53
Men’s Javelin Throw – F54/55/56
Men’s Javelin Throw – F42
Men’s Javelin Throw – F40
Men’s Javelin Throw – F57/58
Men’s 4x100m Relay – T11/T13
Men’s 4x400m Relay – T53/T54Men’s 100m – T12
Men’s 100m – T34
Men’s 100m – T36
Men’s 100m – T38
Men’s 100m – T46
Men’s 100m – T52
Men’s 100m – T53
Men’s 200m – T11
Men’s 200m – T13
Men’s 200m – T35
Men’s 200m – T38
Men’s 200m – T46
Men’s 200m – T52
Men’s 400m – T11
Men’s 400m – T12
Men’s 400m – T36
Men’s 400m – T44
Men’s 400m – T52
Men’s 400m – T54
Men’s 800m – T36
Men’s 800m – T46
Men’s 800m – T53
Men’s 1500m – T13
Men’s 1500m – T37
Men’s 1500m – T20
Men’s 1500m – T54
Men’s 5000m – T11
Men’s Marathon – T46
Men’s High Jump – F46
Men’s 5000m – T54
Men’s Long Jump – F13
Men’s Long Jump – F20
Men’s Long Jump – F46
Men’s Triple Jump – F12
Men’s Shot Put – F11/12
Men’s Shot Put – F37/38
Men’s Shot Put – F34
Men’s Shot Put – F40
Men’s Shot Put – F46
Men’s Shot Put – F54/55/56
Men’s Discus Throw – F32/33/34
Men’s Discus Throw – F37/38
Men’s Discus Throw – F57/58
Men’s Discus Throw – F42
Men’s Discus Throw – F54/55/56
Men’s Javelin Throw – F44
Men’s Javelin Throw – F12/13
Men’s Javelin Throw – F33/34
Men’s Javelin Throw – F52/53
Men’s Club Throw – F31/32/51
Men’s 4x100m Relay – T42/T46

Women’s 100m – T12
Women’s 100m – T13
Women’s 100m – T35
Women’s 100m – T37
Women’s 100m – T44
Women’s 100m – T42
Women’s 100m – T53
Women’s 200m – T11
Women’s 200m – T34
Women’s 200m – T36
Women’s 200m – T38
Women’s 200m – T46
Women’s 200m – T53
Women’s 400m – T13
Women’s 400m – T46
Women’s 400m – T54
Women’s 800m – T54
Women’s 1500m – T12
Women’s 1500m – T54
Women’s Long Jump – F11/12
Women’s Long Jump – F20
Women’s Long Jump – F42/44
Women’s Shot Put – F11/12
Women’s Shot Put – F35/36
Women’s Shot Put – F32/33/34
Women’s Shot Put – F42/44
Women’s Shot Put – F57/58
Women’s Discus Throw – F37
Women’s Discus Throw – F51/52/53
Women’s Discus Throw – F40
Women’s Javelin Throw – F33/34/52/53
Women’s Javelin Throw – F46
Women’s Javelin Throw – F37/38
Women’s 4x100m Relay – T35/T38Women’s 100m – T11
Women’s 100m – T34
Women’s 100m – T36
Women’s 100m – T38
Women’s 100m – T46
Women’s 100m – T52
Women’s 100m – T54
Women’s 200m – T12
Women’s 200m – T35
Women’s 200m – T37
Women’s 200m – T44
Women’s 200m – T52
Women’s 400m – T12
Women’s 400m – T37
Women’s 400m – T53
Women’s 800m – T53
Women’s 5000m – T54
Women’s 1500m – T20
Women’s Marathon – T54
Women’s Long Jump – F13
Women’s Long Jump – F37/38
Women’s Long Jump – F46
Women’s Shot Put – F20
Women’s Shot Put – F37
Women’s Shot Put – F40
Women’s Shot Put – F54/55/56
Women’s Discus Throw – F11/12
Women’s Discus Throw – F35/36
Women’s Discus Throw – F57/58
Women’s Javelin Throw – F12/13
Women’s Javelin Throw – F54/55/56
Women’s Javelin Throw – F57/58
Women’s Club Throw – F31/32/51

Boccia

Believed to have its origins in Ancient Greece, Boccia is a target sport that tests muscle control and accuracy. The name itself comes from the Latin word bottia, meaning ball. The sport is also known as bocce.

The aim of the sport is to propel balls so they finish as close as possible to a special white target ball, known as the jack. Each player, pair or team gets six balls during each phase of a match, called an ‘end’.

The jack is thrown first, then each competitor or team takes turns to throw their ball. After each competitor/team has thrown one ball, the one which does not have the closest ball to the jack throws next. They continue to do so until one of their balls is closest to the jack or until they have thrown all their balls, at which point the other competitor/team throws.

At the close of each end, the athlete, pair or team whose ball is closest to the jack scores one point, and receives an additional point for every ball that sits closer to the jack than the opposition’s closest ball. Individual and Pairs matches consist of four ends, while Team events are held over six ends.

A ball can be propelled by rolling, throwing or kicking. If a player is unable to throw or kick it, they can use a ramp (assistive device).

Each country is limited to one team in each Team event (three athletes). In the Individual events an athlete competes against an opponent with the same classification and for the Pairs events two athletes are paired together.

Events are mixed; men and women compete together.

Mixed competition

Mixed Individual – BC1
Mixed Individual – BC2
Mixed Individual – BC3
Mixed Individual – BC4
Mixed Pairs – BC3
Mixed Pairs – BC4
Mixed Team – BC1-2

Boccia was introduced to the Paralympic program at the New York and Stoke Mandeville 1984 Games.

That’s it, for now. More to follow.

Peace.

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