The Paralympic Winter Games have begun! They are the second largest sporting event in the world — second to the Olympic Games. The Paralympic Winter and Summer Games are an awesome and inspiring display of strength and determination by amazing athletes with various disabilities. Let’s take a look at how the Paralympic games came to be!
In the 1940s, Dr. Ludwig Guttmann, a German-born British neurologist (he studied the nervous system) started to use sports as a way to help the wounded soldiers of World War II. He believed that sports were a good way to improve the quality of life for soldiers who now had to use wheelchairs to get around.
Australian Paralympian Tony South receives his gold medal at the 1968 Tel Aviv Summer Paralympics from the founder of the Paralympics, Ludwig Guttman. (Wikimedia/Australian Paralympic Committee/CC BY-SA)
In 1948, Dr. Guttmann organized the Stoke Mandeville Games for athletes with disabilities that took place around the same time of the Olympic Summer Games in London, England. There were 16 injured servicemen and women who took part in archery. He originally used the term paraplegic games to encourage his patients to take part, and these became known as the Paralympics and included other disabilities.
16 countries participated
53 athletes competed
Competitions were held in alpine and cross-country skiing for amputee and visually impaired athletes.
18 countries participated
229 athletes competed
Ice sledge racing was introduced as a new sport and sledge downhill racing was held as a demonstration event, which meant that there were no medals. All athletes with locomotor disabilities (trouble moving your body) could participate.
These were the first games where athletes with cerebral palsy could participate. Giant slalom skiing was exhibited.
These Paralympics were supposed to be held in Calgary along with the Olympics, but instead had to be held in Innsbruck again. Sit skiing was introduced this year to both alpine and cross-country skiing and para biathlon was added as the fourth event. They had the first Paralympic torch relay.
The Olympic and Paralympic Games happened at the same time. For the first time, demonstration events in alpine and nordic skiing for athletes with intellectual disabilities and biathlon for athletes with visual impairment were held.
Ice sledge hockey was added to the events. This was the first time the Paralympic Winter Games were held in the same location as the Winter Olympics.
These were the first Paralympic Winter Games to be held outside of Europe and the last of the 20th century.
These were the first Winter Paralympics in North America and the first time that countries like China, Greece and Hungary participated in the Winter Paralympics.
Spectators were able to see wheelchair curling for the first time at the 2006 Winter Paralympics.
These were the first Paralympic Winter Games hosted in Canada. On June 7, 2006, Prince Edward, a patron of the British Paralympic Association, raised the flag of the Paralympic Games outside Vancouver City Hall.
This was the first year that the Heritage Flame was lit at Stoke Mandeville Stadium in Aylesbury, Great Britain, as part of the Torch Relay celebrations. This ceremony will now take place before every future summer and winter Paralympic Games.
This year, the 2018 PyeongChang Winter Paralympic Games have almost 50 countries competing in six different sports including Alpine Skiing, Cross-country Skiing, Biathlon, Ice Hockey, Wheelchair Curling and Snowboarding! There are also five major classifications of athletes: persons with visual impairments (blindness), persons with physical disabilities, people with cerebral palsy, amputee athletes, people with spinal cord injuries and Les Autres (athletes with a physical disability that are not included in the categories mentioned above such as Muscular Dystrophy).