Let’s continue our rundown of sports scheduled to feature in the upcoming (6 days, now!) Paralympic Games of London 2012.

Cycling, Cycling, and Equestrian

Today: Cycling (Road and Track), and Equestrian events.

My hearty thanks to the folks at

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

the official website of the Games, for facts and figures.

Cycling Road

Cycling was originally developed as a sport for blind athletes, who first competed using tandem bicycles,which seat two riders.

Technological advances have since opened up the sport to a wider range of athletes; it is now the third largest sport on the Paralympic program.

Road Cycling was introduced as a Paralympic sport at the Stoke Mandeville/New York 1984 Paralympics.

For London 2012, the Road Race course is an 8km loop including the world-famous Brands Hatch circuit and surrounding roads.

The 32 medal events in different classifications that make up the Paralympic Road Cycling competition feature athletes with a visual impairment, cerebral palsy, amputations or other physical disabilities competing on bicycles, tricycles, tandems and hand cycles.

A tandem is used by athletes with visual impairment; the athlete sits on the back of the tandem with a sighted pilot at the front.

A hand cycle has pedals operated by hand. It has two wheels at the back and one at the front.

A tricycle – which has 3 wheels – is normally used by athletes whose balance would make them unable to race on a two-wheeled bicycle.

A bicycle is used by all other athletes, often with modifications.

Athletes are classified, according to their level of physical impairment, as follows:

B – tandem

H1-H4 – athletes use a hand cycle

T1-T2 – athletes use a tricycle

C1-C5 – athletes use a bicycle, often with modifications

The lower the athlete’s class number, the greater the impact of their impairment on their ability to compete.

Cyclists must wear protective helmets, the color of which reflects their class.

The men’s and women’s Road Race and Team events are straight finals. In each event all athletes start together, and the first athlete/team to cross the finish line is the winner.

In the Time Trials, athletes start at 60-second intervals. The one to complete the course in the fastest time is the winner.

The Team Relay events will be conducted as mass start events on a looped course. Each team will consist of three riders, with no baton or other physical contact required to enact the relays. The race will be six laps long, with each rider doing two laps.

The full competition programs will look like this:

Men’s competition

Men’s Individual H 1 Road Race
Men’s Individual H 2 Road Race
Men’s Individual H 3 Road Race
Men’s Individual H 4 Road Race
Men’s Individual C 1-3 Road Race
Men’s Individual C 4-5 Road Race
Men’s Individual B Road Race
Men’s Individual H 1 Time Trial
Men’s Individual H 2 Time Trial
Men’s Individual H 3 Time Trial
Men’s Individual H 4 Time Trial
Men’s Individual C 1 Time Trial
Men’s Individual C 2 Time Trial
Men’s Individual C 3 Time Trial
Men’s Individual C 4 Time Trial
Men’s Individual C 5 Time Trial

Women’s competition

Women’s Individual H 1-3 Road Race
Women’s Individual H 4 Road Race
Women’s Individual C 1-3 Road Race
Women’s Individual C 4-5 Road Race
Women’s Individual B Road Race
Women’s Individual H 1-2 Time Trial
Women’s Individual H 3 Time Trial
Women’s Individual H 4 Time Trial
Women’s Individual C 1-3 Time Trial
Women’s Individual C 4 Time Trial
Women’s Individual C 5 Time Trial
Women’s Individual B Time Trial

Mixed competition

T 1-2 Road Race
Mixed T 1-2 Time Trial
Mixed H 1-4 Team Relay

Cycling Track

The first Track Cycling races at the Paralympic Games took place at the Atlanta 1996 Games.

At London 2012, the program features more medal events than at any previous Paralympic Games.

The track at the Velodrome is a 250m oval, banked from 12 degrees at its shallowest point to 42 degrees at its steepest.

There are 18 Paralympic Track Cycling events (10 for men, seven for women and one mixed event) testing speed, endurance and teamwork.

For Track Cycling, only bicycles and tandems are used.

The Individual Sprint is a race between two riders at a time, over three laps of the track. The two riders start side by side, usually very slowly, before building up to a full-on sprint finish. Riders usually do not want to be in the front for the full race, which is why they may slow down and use the full width of the track.

The men’s Individual Sprint event starts with a 200m time trial to determine the draw for the 16 riders. From then on the competition is a knockout, going to quarter-finals, semi-finals and the final, which are all the best of three heats.

The Team Sprint starts with a qualifying round with the best two teams going forward to the final. The mixed Team Sprint event (classes C1-5) comprising men and women will be contested by teams of three riders. The two fastest teams in the qualifying round will race for the gold medal, and the teams with the third and fourth fastest times will race for the bronze medal.

In the Individual Pursuit, two opposing riders start on either side of the track. The winner is the rider who either catches the other, or records the fastest time over the full distance.

The men’s Pursuit is four kilometers long; the women’s event is three kilometers.

The Pursuit starts with a qualifying round, At the end of the qualification phase, the two riders with the fastest times will race for the gold medal, and the riders with the third and fourth fastest times will race for the bronze medal.

The Time Trial is a straightforward race – 1km for men, 500m for women. Athletes take to the track alone and the fastest time wins the gold medal.

The program of events for London 2012 is:

Men’s competition

Men’s Individual B Sprint
Men’s Individual C1 Pursuit
Men’s Individual B Pursuit
Men’s Individual C2 Pursuit
Men’s Individual C3 Pursuit
Men’s Individual C4 Pursuit
Men’s Individual B 1km Time Trial
Men’s Individual C1-2-3 1km Time Trial
Men’s Individual C4-5 1km Time Trial
Men’s Individual C5 Pursuit

Women’s competition

Women’s Individual B Pursuit
Women’s Individual C1-2-3 Pursuit
Women’s Individual C4 Pursuit
Women’s Individual C5 Pursuit
Women’s Individual B 1km Time Trial
Women’s Individual C1-2-3 500m Time Trial
Women’s Individual C4-5 500m Time Trial

Mixed competition

Mixed C1 to 5 Team Sprint

Equestrian

Equestrian events first appeared on the Paralympic programme at the 1984 Games held in Stoke Mandeville and New York, and have featured at every Games since Atlanta 1996.

Athletes with a disability have long taken part in Equestrian activities, originally as a means of rehabilitation and recreation.

Para-Equestrian Dressage developed in the 1970s, with the first events held in Great Britain and Scandinavia. The multi-disability sport has since spread around the world, and athletes from more than 40 countries now compete on a regular basis.

Visually impaired riders are permitted to use callers to help them navigate around the arena. Norway’s Ann Cecile Orr rode to a whistle, on her way to winning two silver medals at Sydney 2000 – she is totally blind.

Great Britain’s Lee Pearson has won nine Paralympic gold medals at three successive Games, along with six world titles. He has a remarkable 100 per cent success rate in Paralympic competition.

Grades are Ia, Ib, II, III and IV. Grade Ia is for athletes whose impairment has the greatest impact on their ability to ride, and Grade IV has the least impact.

The Dressage competition takes place in a 60m x 20m arena (Grade IV) or 40m x 20m (Grades I-III).

The system of grades ensures that the tests can be judged on the skill of the rider, regardless of their disability. Riders may use permitted assistive devices such as dressage crops and connecting rein bars. Visually impaired riders are permitted to use callers to help them navigate around the arena.

Athletes compete in three Dressage tests, where they have to perform a series of pre-determined movements which differ by grade and ability: a Team Test (with three to four riders per team), an Individual Championship Test, and a Freestyle Test, for which athletes choose their own movements and music. Through the tests, horse and rider must be in harmony, and the overall picture must be of lightness and rhythm.

Riders first complete the Team Test within their grades, followed by the Individual Championship Test, looking to get the best possible scores from the judges. After this the scores of both tests are added together to make the Team score, with the best three scores across all the grades counting.

Individual medals are also awarded for each grade on the merit of the Individual Championship Test.

After this riders undertake the Freestyle Test, competing for individual medals in each grade in this event.

A jury of five judges watches each athlete/horse combination and awards marks out of ten for the different movements that make up the routine, as well as the routine as a whole. These scores are then combined and turned into a percentage to give a final score.

The judges award marks using exacting standards, where even a slight imperfection will lose points. They are on the lookout for irregular or jerky movement, steps that are too large or too small, and riders and horses working well together.

There will be 78 competitors; men and women compete together in mixed events, as follows:

Mixed competition

Team Test – Grade Ia
Team Test – Grade Ib
Team Test – Grade II
Team Test – Grade III
Team Test – Grade IV
Individual Championship Test – Grade Ia
Individual Championship Test – Grade Ib
Individual Championship Test – Grade II
Individual Championship Test – Grade III
Individual Championship Test – Grade IV
Individual Freestyle Test – Grade Ia
Individual Freestyle Test – Grade Ib
Individual Freestyle Test – Grade II
Individual Freestyle Test – Grade III
Individual Freestyle Test – Grade IV

That’s it, for this session.

Hope to see you soon.

Peace.

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