We’ll close out our survey of sporting events lined up for the Paralympic Games of London 2012, with the two remaining disciplines – also exclusive to wheelchair-based participants:

Wheelchair Rugby and Tennis

Wheelchair Rugby, and Wheelchair Tennis.

Thanks, as always, to the good people at the official London 2012 Paralympics website:

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

for facts and figures.

Wheelchair Rugby

Wheelchair Rugby was invented in 1977 by a group of Canadian quadriplegic athletes, who were looking for an alternative to Wheelchair Basketball that would allow players with reduced arm and hand function to participate on equal terms. The sport incorporates some elements of Basketball, Handball and Ice Hockey.

The aim of Wheelchair Rugby is to take the ball over the opponent’s goal line. Two wheels of the chair must cross the line, and the athlete must be in control of the ball, which may be held in their lap. Contact between wheelchairs is permitted, but physical contact between players is not.

Participants must have a disability that affects both the arms and the legs.

Every player is assigned a point value based on their functional ability, from 0.5 for a player with the least physical function through to 3.5 for the greatest physical function. During play, the total on-court value for each team of four players cannot exceed 8.

Wheelchair Rugby is played on a court 28m long and 15m wide. The court is divided into two halves, with a center circle and a goal line and key area at each end. The key areas are 8m wide and 1.75m deep. The sport is played with a regulation volleyball.

The game starts with a tip-off. A player from each side attempts to tip the ball, from the referee’s throw, to a member of their team.

From the moment they gain possession, a team has just 40 seconds to score a goal.

Teams may not have more than three players in their key area while defending their goal line, and an attacking player may not be in the opposition key area for longer than 10 seconds.

Players may throw, bat or roll the ball, but kicking it is not allowed.

A match consists of four eight-minute quarters, with the clock stopped every time there is a stoppage in play. With breaks, time-outs and stoppages, matches typically last about an hour and a quarter. In the event of a tie, extra periods of three minutes are played until the tie is broken.

The game is supervised by two referees, who are responsible for ensuring that the game is played fairly and within the rules. They are assisted by three table officials: a scorekeeper, a timekeeper, and a penalty timekeeper. A third referee, the technical commissioner, supervises the work of the table officials.

Common fouls occur when a player violates the rules during a genuine attempt to play the game. The penalty for a common foul is a loss of possession if committed by a player on the offensive team, or a one-minute penalty, if committed by a player on the defensive team.

If a defensive foul is committed when the offensive team is in an imminent scoring position, the referee may award a penalty goal in lieu of a one-minute penalty.

A player who is serving a one-minute penalty for a common foul is released from the penalty box after one minute of time has elapsed on the game clock, or if the opposing team scores a goal.

Common fouls include infringements such as charging, pushing or holding another player.

A technical foul covers unsportsmanlike conduct, such as being disrespectful or playing with an illegal chair. Technical fouls are given a one-minute penalty.

A flagrant foul is any foul that shows blatant disregard for another player’s safety. The referee awards a common foul plus a technical foul, to be served consecutively. A penalty goal may be awarded in place of the common foul, but the offending player must still serve the one-minute penalty for the technical foul.

A disqualifying foul is for serious offences such as fighting. A player will be ejected from the match. A substitute is then allowed, but must serve a one-minute penalty.

Wheelchair Rugby first appeared in the Atlanta 1996 Paralympic Games, when it featured as a demonstration sport. Its debut as a full medal event followed at Sydney 2000, when the US beat Australia 32-31 to win the gold medal.

At London 2012, eight mixed teams of men and women will compete, with 12 athletes (four players and eight substitutes) on each team.

Each country is limited to one team.

The competition begins with a round-robin stage – the eight teams are divided into two groups of four. The top two teams in each group qualify for the semi-finals, with the winners then going head-to-head in the final.

Wheelchair Tennis

Wheelchair Tennis was invented in 1976 by Brad Parks, who had been experimenting with tennis as a recreational therapy after he was injured in a freestyle skiing competition.

The sport is now fully integrated into all four Grand Slam Tennis events.

The court is the same size as that for mainstream Olympic Tennis.

The singles court is 23.77m long and 8.23m wide, and the doubles court is wider, at 10.97m wide.

The court is divided in half by a net, which is 91cm high.

The sport follows similar rules to Tennis, with one key exception: the ball is allowed to bounce twice, and only the first bounce must be within the boundaries of the court. All matches are played over the best of three sets.

After featuring as an exhibition sport at the Seoul 1988 Paralympic Games, Wheelchair Tennis was introduced as a full medal event at the Barcelona 1992 Games, and has featured at every Games since then.

The competition program looks like this:

Men’s Competition

Men’s Singles
Men’s Doubles

Women’s Competition

Women’s Singles
Women’s Doubles

Quad Competition

Quad Singles
Quad Doubles

Quad players have an impairment that affects three or more limbs. Men and women compete together in the Quad events.

Each country is limited to four athletes each in the men’s and women’s Singles, three athletes in the Quad Singles, two teams (four athletes) each in the men’s and women’s Doubles, and one team (two athletes) in the Quad Doubles.

The tournament is a knockout format, with the winners of the semi-finals in each event going head-to-head for the gold medals.

An umpire is in charge of the match, ensuring that the rules of the game are observed and calling out the score after each point. The umpire is assisted by line judges, who keep an eye on whether the ball lands in our out of court.

Esther Vergeer of the Netherlands is unbeaten in more than 450 matches, one of the longest winning streaks in any sport. Her last loss was in January 2003.

So. I hope you’re all set, for 2012, now.

The Paralympic Games are due to begin, and (if you’ve been keeping up with this series) you’ll have a firm knowledge of what to expect.

Should be quite an event.

Peace.

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