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Paralympics: Two for the road

Wheelchair racers speeding to victory, blind swimmers competing for gold, and disabled skiers pushing their bodies to the limit. These are today's Paralympians. They train hard. They play to win. And in recent years, Canadians have been winning big at the Paralympic Games. The Paralympics began as a postwar sporting event designed to get injured ex-soldiers moving again. But by the 1980s the Games had evolved into an elite international competition.

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Vancouver's Brian Cowie may be legally blind, but that hasn't kept him off his bike. On the contrary - he's an elite cyclist who races in competitions all over the world. In the Paralympic sport of tandem cycling, Cowie shares a two-man bicycle with sighted partner Min Van Velzen. In this 2000 clip from The National, the two athletes discuss their unique style of teamwork, their Paralympic hopes, and the physical challenges of tandem racing. 
• Cowie and Van Velzen competed in the 2000 Paralympics, but did not win a medal.
• In the sport of tandem cycling, the sighted person rides in front and the visually impaired person rides in back. It is considered to be quite difficult and takes a lot of teamwork, since coordinating your movements with your partner is key.
• Tandem cyclists compete in either men's, women's or mixed pairs; in road or track events of varying distances.

• Tandem cycling has been part of the Paralympic games since 1992.
• Other disability groups have different types of cycling events. Athletes with cerebral palsy compete on either regular bikes or three-wheeled bikes, depending on their degree of disability. And athletes with locomotor disabilities compete on bicycles specially constructed for their needs.

• Blind sports first appeared at the Paralympic Games in 1976. Blind swimming, track and field events and goalball were among the first Paralympic sports for the visually impaired. They remain extremely popular at the Games.

Goalball is unique to the blind sport world. It was invented in 1946 in Europe to be used in rehabilitation for blind war veterans. Three players on each team try to score goals by rolling the ball into the other team's goal. The ball weighs 1.25 kilograms and contains bells to let players know where it is. Since the game is open to the partially blind as well, all competitors are required to wear eye masks to maintain an even playing field.
Medium: Television
Program: The National Magazine
Broadcast Date: Sept. 27, 2000
Guest(s): Brian Cowie, Min Van Velzen
Reporter: Duncan McCue
Duration: 5:18

Last updated: August 16, 2013

Page consulted on September 10, 2014

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