Our rundown of the sports due to feature in the Paralympic Games of London 2012 now considers two events exclusive to wheelchair-based participants:

Wheelchair Basketball and Fencing

Wheelchair Basketball, and Wheelchair Fencing.

Thanks to the team at

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

the official London 2012 Paralympics website, for facts and figures.

Here we go.

Wheelchair Basketball

Wheelchair Basketball was developed by American World War II veterans as part of their rehabilitation program, but its popularity soon spread around the world. The game is now played in more than 80 countries.

Athletes with different disabilities compete together in Wheelchair Basketball.

Each player is assigned a point value based on his/her functional ability, from 1.0 for a player with the least physical function, through to 4.5 for the greatest physical function. During play, the total on-court point value for each team of five players cannot exceed 14.

Top Wheelchair Basketball players use specially-designed titanium chairs that cost more than £3,500 Sterling, and can last for as little as six months during periods of high-level competition.

Wheelchair Basketball featured at the first Games in Rome 1960, and has remained on the Paralympic program, ever since. The women’s competition was added at the Tel Aviv 1968 Games.

Like its mainstream Olympic equivalent, the Wheelchair Basketball court is 28m long and 15m wide. The baskets at either end are 3.05m above the ground. The court is divided into two halves, with a free-throw line 5.8m inside either end, and the three-point line a 6.75m radius from each basket.

Twelve teams compete in the men’s, and 10 in the women’s competitions, with 12 athletes (five players and seven substitutes) on each team.

Each country is limited to one men’s and one women’s team.

The rules of Wheelchair Basketball are broadly similar to Basketball.

The court is the same size, the basket is at the same height, and the scoring is identical: two points for a regular shot from open play, one point for each successful free throw, and three points for a shot from distance (6.75m from the basket).

Players move the ball around the court by passing or dribbling, and are required to throw or bounce the ball after every two pushes of the wheels on their chairs, to avoid being penalized for traveling.

There are 12 players in each team, with no more than five on court.

Games last for 40 minutes, split into four 10-minute quarters. The clock stops for every break in play, and teams can call time-outs which last one minute.

Both the men’s and women’s tournaments begin with a round-robin.

The 12 men’s teams are divided into two groups of six teams; the 10 women’s teams are divided into groups of five. The top four teams in each group qualify for the quarter-finals, from which point the tournaments are played in a knockout format.

A referee oversees each game, assisted by two umpires. There are also table officials who are timers, and scorers and statisticians who record all the action. A game commissioner also sits with the table officials next to the court.

Violations are not committed against another player, but include offences such as taking more than two pushes of the wheels with the ball (traveling), being out of bounds, or rising out of the seat of the chair to gain an advantage. Violations result in the ball being awarded to the opposition.

Fouls are offences that are committed against an opposition player. While contact between players and chairs is not necessarily against the rules, referees will penalize deliberate blocking, pushing or charging.

In the case of fouls, the opposition team is awarded a throw-in close to where the infringement took place. If the player who was fouled was trying to shoot a goal at the time, then one or more free throws will be awarded, depending on where the foul took place.

Wheelchair Fencing

Wheelchair Fencing was developed in the years after World War II at Stoke Mandeville, the birthplace of the Paralympic Games.

Three types of weapon are used in Wheelchair Fencing. In bouts using the Foil and the slightly heavier Epée, hits are scored by hitting an opponent with the tip of the weapon. In Sabre, hits are more commonly scored with the edge of the weapon.

The target area for Foil is limited to the opponent’s torso, while competitors in Sabre and Epée events may be hit anywhere above the waist.

Fencers wear protective gear including masks, jackets, breeches and gloves. Fencers also wear a wire to enable hits to be recorded electronically.

Fencing takes place on a piste measuring 4m x 1.5m.

Athletes compete in wheelchairs that are fixed into a frame fastened to the floor. This gives them freedom of movement in their upper bodies, while keeping them fixed in their chairs.

The distance between the two fencers is determined by the athlete with the shorter arm reach, who decides if the distance between competitors will be set at the length of their opponent’s reach or their own.

Wheelchair frames are designed so that fencers can compete against each other whether they are right- or left-handed.

A referee oversees each Fencing bout. The referee is assisted by a video referee and, in the later stages of the competition, two assistant referees, who look for rule infringements.

The referee will be looking out for offences such as weapons touching the floor once a bout is underway, or a Foil covering the valid target with the unarmed hand. An athlete’s foot must not leave the chair’s foot rest, or use the floor for advantage, and the athlete must remain seated at all times.

Classification is limited to A and B.
Athletes in the B category have an impairment with a greater impact on their functional ability.

The competition schedule is as follows:

Men’s competition

Men’s Individual Foil – Category A
Men’s Individual Foil – Category B
Men’s Individual Epee – Category A
Men’s Individual Epee – Category B
Men’s Individual Sabre – Category A
Men’s Individual Sabre – Category B
Men’s Team – Category Open

Women’s competition

Women’s Individual Foil – Category A
Women’s Individual Foil – Category B
Women’s Individual Epee – Category A
Women’s Individual Epee – Category B
Women’s Team – Category Open

Each country is limited to six men and four women, including a limit of two athletes in each event.

And that’s your limit, for this one.

See you next time. I hope.

Peace.

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